This OpEd by yours truly appears in the June 24, 2019 issue of Florida Today.
Most people are not aware of the First Step Act, signed into law by President Trump in December of 2018. It is a major achievement in improving the criminal justice system, long overdue.
This law seeks to incentivize prison inmates to participate in training programs targeted at increasing opportunities once released. Participation can earn as many as 47 days per year knocked off their sentences. Inmates also earn lighter sentences while ensuring, after release, they will become a productive member of society.
We all want to see criminals pay their debts for committing crimes, particularly violent felonies. No argument there. But imposing extreme sentences on people who will spend 20 to 50 years behind bars does nothing to rehabilitate. Rather, it further reduces opportunities for ex-inmates to become productive citizens.
Some want to see criminals enter prison for decades. But we forget that most of those inmates will be coming out one day, with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Not everyone has family members or friends. Not all have support systems. Many are released without any source of income.
Ricky L. was …