The U.S. Bureau of Prisons is freeing over 3,000 inmates under a criminal justice reform measure, the largest group to be released since President Donald Trump signed the bipartisan First Step Act into law less than seven months ago.
The law’s Second Chance Hiring Program funds job training and re-entry initiatives to help former prisoners gain employment. Trump outlined the major public-private partnership last month at the White House.
The Justice Department announced the release of the inmates Friday, saying it was the result of an increase in “good conduct time” under the First Step Act that rewards prisoners with shorter sentences for good behavior.
“Starting today at prisons around the country, nearly 3,100 inmates are being released from Bureau of Prisons custody due to the increase in good conduct time applied to reduce their sentences under the First Step Act,” Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen told reporters Friday, according to Fox News.
Trump signed the legislation into law Dec. 21.
Most of the new inmates set for release had drug-related criminal records and lived in halfway houses across the country, acting Bureau of Prisons chief Hugh Hurwitz said at a news conference in Washington.
Through the First Step Act, inmates had an opportunity to get their sentence time reduced and participate in recidivism programs.
To prepare for their release, the Justice Department said, the nearly 3,100 inmates worked with probation offices to create “individualized release plans” to “ensure a smooth transition.”
These plans included drug treatment, post-release employment aid, and youth mentorship, among others.
The Justice Department also announced 1,691 sentence reductions through retroactive application of the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act, which the agency said reduces “the disparity between crack cocaine and powder cocaine threshold amounts triggering mandatory minimum sentences.”
“Our communities are safer when we do a better job of rehabilitating offenders in our custody and preparing them for a successful transition to life after incarceration,” Attorney General William Barr said in a prepared statement.
Barr added: “The [Justice] Department is committed to and has been working towards full implementation of the First Step Act, which will help us effectively deploy resources to help reduce risk, recidivism, and crime.”
Another major development related to implementation of the First Step Act is what officials call the Risk and Needs Assessment System.
According to the Justice Department, the system will “help identify all federal inmates who would qualify for pre-release custody by participating in recidivism reduction programming and/or productive activities.”
Congress authorized $75 million for each fiscal year from 2019 to 2023 for the Justice Department to implement the new law. The department already has redirected $75 million for implementation in fiscal 2019, which ends Sept. 30, and said it will work with Congress to ensure more funds are appropriated for future years.