Capitol Correspondence - 01.07.19

Congress Passed Criminal Justice Reform Bill; Some Provisions May Benefit People with Disabilities

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Before ending, the 115th Congress (the previous Congress) passed the First Step Act (S. 756), which became law when the President signed the bill on December 21, 2018. This legislation would reduce mass incarceration in the United States by reforming federal criminal justice law – note that state criminal laws are different and this bill does not apply to them. ANCOR is sharing this because some provisions could benefit people with I/DD – ANCOR will be conducting more research to understand which provisions do so, and how. Pending that research, please note that according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, “2 in 10 prisoners and 3 in 10 jail inmates reported having a cognitive disability, the most common reported disability in each population.”

As detailed by Axios, this law would:

  • Send up to 4,000 prisoners home by increasing the amount of time inmates can cut off of their sentences due to good behavior.
  • Allow more male and female inmates to serve time in house arrest or halfway homes instead of prison cells, with exceptions for high-risk inmates.
  • Require that prisoners be placed within 500 miles of family.
  • Outlaw shackling during child birth.
  • Mandate the provision of sanitary napkins and tampons to female inmates.
  • Reduce the mandatory penalty from life to 25 years for a third conviction of certain drug offenses, and from 25 to 15 years for a second conviction.
  • Prohibit the doubling up, or “stacking,” of mandatory sentences for certain gun and drug offenses.
  • Give judges more discretion in giving less than the mandatory minimum for certain low-level crimes.
  • Make the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act retroactive, which changed sentencing guidelines to treat offenses involving crack and powder cocaine equally. This could impact nearly 2,600 federal inmates, according to the Marshall Project.