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The Second Step

W. Scott Cole

Posted on July 2, 2018 00:11

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Last week, I wrote about the First Step Act, which is currently making its way through Congress. It is appropriately named, as it is a good first step, but much more can be done. Here are a few thoughts for a second step.

The First Step Act mandates the federal government to enact programs designed to reduce recidivism and help inmates being released from prison to establish themselves as law-abiding, productive citizens. Texas enacted a law much like the First Step Act in 2007, and in 10 years, its crime rate had dropped by a third. In that same time, it also saved three billion dollars and in the last six years by closing eight prisons.

The First Step Act can make huge advances in recidivism and crime reduction, and the states that have not already enacted similar laws need to do so, but there are problems with the First Step Act that I believe should be changed in the Senate before it passes and becomes law. Failing that, the changes should be made in other bills.

The biggest problem I see with the act is that there is a long list of crimes that do not qualify for the programs and resultant credits for reductions of sentences. Why? Do the people who commit those crimes not deserve the chance to get the same help as the others in order to make it easier to live an honest life? Maybe the federal government does not want the recidivism rates for those crimes to be reduced?

It is true that most of those crimes are among the most heinous, the most notable of which is human trafficking. It is also true that most of those crimes have recidivism rates that are among the lowest already; but that being said, the fact that those crimes are among the most heinous means they should be at the top of the list of crimes eligible for the new programs.

It seems to me that the worse the crime is, the more the governments, both federal and state, should be invested in reducing recidivism for that crime. Many of those crimes are such that society already brands those who commit them as pariahs. That makes it magnitudes harder for those people to stay crime free. If the government can find a way to make it even a little easier to turn to an honest, open life, why would they not do so?

Excluding them from programs that are proven to reduce recidivism only makes harder what is already an extremely uphill climb. These are the people that most need the help, the social living and communication skills, the family relationship building skills and the cognitive behavioral treatment.

These are the skills that most who commit these crimes lack, and reentering society without them does them and society no favors. Having these skills help all felons leaving prison, regardless of the crime they were convicted of. The more heinous the crime, the more these people need to develop the skills they need to remain crime free.

A good Second Step would be to include all felons in the help the First Step Act will provide.

W. Scott Cole

Posted on July 2, 2018 00:11

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(RNS) — As the First Step Act passes the U.S. House of Representatives, the country’s largest Christian prison ministry says...

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