June 14, 2021

USA starts the road to change their prisons and release thousands of prisoners

USA starts the road to change their prisons and release thousands of prisoners

The White House today endorsed an initiative approved by the Senate and that, if passed into law, would allow the release of thousands of prisoners and would be the largest reform in decades of the US criminal system, which has behind bars to 2.2 millions of people.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders considered the initiative a "historic victory" for US President Donald Trump.

Trump has played a key role in prison reform because he has managed to change the traditional position of Republican legislators, who for years have defended the need for a harsh criminal system and that, under the government of President Barack Obama (2009-2017), they resisted approving a similar change.

During the 2016 campaign, Trump promised a criminal system based on "law and order", but his son-in-law and presidential adviser, Jared Kushner, managed to convince him to back the effort of a group of Democratic and Republican senators to change the system prison.

Kushner knows the penal system well because his father, a real estate mogul, had to enter jail in 2005 for tax evasion, intimidation of witnesses and illegal donations to political campaigns.

On Twitter, after the approval of the initiative, Trump stressed that his duty was to fight for "all Americans," also for those who had made "mistakes."

The initiative, dubbed the "first step law", was approved Tuesday night in the Senate with 87 votes in favor and 12 against; and now will go to the House of Representatives where everything indicates that the measure will be approved without problems, then be signed by Trump and become law.

In order to succeed, the legislation would represent the biggest change in decades to the US criminal system, a country that in the 1980s passed laws that toughened the penalties for drug offenses, which were aimed at combating the "epidemic" "Crac consumption (treated cocaine taken in small crystals or stones that crack when burned), which caused an increase in murders and robberies.

As a result of that regulation, since the 1980s, the US prison population has it has gone from 500,000 to 2.2 million people and there has been a disproportionate increase in convictions for members of the black and Hispanic minorities, so that one out of every three inmates is African-American.

The "first step law" would end with a provision that requires judges to sentence people who have been convicted three times for drug offenses to life imprisonment; so that from now on those accused would receive 25 years in prison, instead of a lifetime punishment.

In addition, the initiative proposes to reduce the disparity between the high penalties for trafficking of crac, more popular among African-Americans, and for possession of cocaine powder – a drug more consumed by whites -, which entails minor prison sentences.

These changes would be applied retroactively and, therefore, would allow the release of 2,000 prisoners in federal prisons.

The initiative, which does not affect state prisons, expands programs that allow the early release of well-behaved prisoners and also expands programs aimed at job training, essential to offer opportunities to those released from prison and reduce recidivism rates.

The legislation will also prohibit pregnant women from being restrained in shackles and will veto the use of solitary confinement for incarcerated children.

Also, if approved, the law will provide that the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) must place inmates in facilities near their homes, in order to facilitate the visit of family and friends.

The House of Representatives is expected to approve the bill later this week before its recess for the Christmas holidays.

Although most prisoners are concentrated in state prisons, which would not be affected by the law, lawmakers hope that changes at the federal level will influence local policies.

The current system carries a burden of 80,000 million dollars annually to the federal and state coffers.


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