First Step Act becomes law

President Trump has signed into law, Congress having passed by wide margins, the First Step Act, which will make substantial changes to incarceration practices at the federal level and lesser but still significant changes to sentencing practices. Joe Luppino-Esposito of the Due Process Institute responds to five criticisms that some conservatives have leveled against the bill in its later stages. Jonathan Blanks has more. Families Against Mandatory Minimums has a FAQ. And Caleb Brown interviews Shon Hopwood about the law for the Cato Daily Podcast.


  • One wonders how many Wendell Callahans will be a part of this . . .

    • Callahan was sentenced in 2007 and released seven years later in 2014, more than a year before he committed murder. Is there any particularly good reason to believe that serving a couple of years less in prison made the difference here, that had he been released in 2016 or 2017 as he was originally sentenced, he wouldn’t have committed the crime then?

      Yes, it’s awful when someone released from prison goes on to commit violent crimes, but short of keeping every criminal locked up forever, it’s never entirely preventable. Where’s the specific reason to believe that a few years longer in prison would have somehow turned him around?

      • As time goes on, prisoners age and become less likely to commit crime. Maybe a few more years behind bars would have been better.

        Callahan was a violent criminal (so much for only the non-violent getting released).

        This: “Where’s the specific reason to believe that a few years longer in prison would have somehow turned him around?” merits comment.

        1. No one has a crystal ball, but if you look at Callahan’s record, you’ll see a propensity for violence—all things being equal, he should have been incapacitated longer.

        2. How long to keep a criminal incarcerated is a difficult question. At some point, the criminal is the one should should bear the risk of not getting it right.

        3. Sometimes I am just shocked at how people think—the plain import of your question is that if a criminal won’t be “turned around,” he should just be released.

        I get that there are cases of injustice in sentencing–but there are also cases of lenience that get people killed.

  • Is that the criminals based on fudged/faked/mistaken lab data and/or the cops/DA’s that need a conviction of someone for this… Maybe at some point it should apply to the money/possessions of uncharged/unconvicted/innocent persons that happen to have something that that a cop somewhere wanted to keep?
    That is a scary set of phrases coming from someone who used to believe in law and order and has seen too much on the internet to keep the faith of faithless representatives of government power. It started with the taking of cash without pressing charges or proving anything other than they had something we wanted and the last straw was pretty much the FBI and DOJ during all of president Trumps term.
    No personal interaction, no family interaction, no friends interaction… But the more you hear, the sicker of the thugs acting in our name people will become.