If you’re a Missouri advocate of criminal law reforms who perceives it as a fully realized, can’t-be-improved piece of legislation, you’re going to be disappointed.
Conversely, if you view it as baby steps that will eventually morph into purposeful strides, well, then, you’ve likely got something.
Proponents of a statutory enactment signed into law late last year by President Trump think they’ve got something.
In fact, they collectively believe that the federal First Steps Act inked last Decembers is seminal legislation destined to serve as foundational law guiding future reforms. They say it will forge material and multiple federal sentencing adjustments down the road that will yield highly salutary effects across a broad front.
One key hope is that First Step and subsequently drafted bipartisan legislation will bring about a notable drop in the country’s clogged federal prison population. As reported in one recent article spotlighting the First Step Act and criminal law reforms, that “has risen by more than 700 percent since 1980.”
One strategy for curbing excess is First Step’s mandate to adjust downward the mandatory minimum sentencing terms for select drug offenders (many of those individuals being nonviolent first-time offenders convicted on drug charges). Another focus has been on the restoration of judges’ discretion to deviate from higher-end sentencing recommendations in specific cases.
One prominent reform advocacy group calls First Step “the starting point” for a series of future changes that promise to curb the swelling inmate rolls and reduce ever-ballooning system costs.
Reportedly, more than 1,000 individuals have already had their sentences cut since First Step’s enactment.