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Handler now nor works as an advocate for people who are incarcerated I think the first step at actually open the door in the eyes of many people for those who are incarcerated formerly incarcerated for more on the first step back to where it is one year in I'm joined by Jonathan Terry policy adviser at John Jay college of criminal justice and Louis L. read national organizer for cut fifty a bipartisan initiative to cut crime and incarceration in half across the country thanks to both of you for being here on the show thanks for having me on Jonathan first tell us how the first step act is intended to work when it comes to early release so the first the back includes several provisions for federal prison reform it eliminates the three strike rule which is a law that was originally meant to provide harsher punishments for those who have several federal conviction so previously you could get a life sentence for having three convictions for our convictions that's been reduced to a twenty five year sentence it also extends the two thousand ten fair sentencing act which reduce the disparity that could be given a sentence for selling crack cocaine versus powder cocaine is also brings people closer to home ideally five hundred miles is now the limit that people are supposed to be allowed to be away from home and and a federal prison it includes a lot of other quality of life you might say provisions for federal prisons as well so women who are pregnant or look no longer able to be shackled juveniles are no longer able to be put in solitary confinement is also expanded reentry programs which was mentioned a little bit before so the process of going back into society after prison is a an arduous one and so the first act apportioned millions of dollars for a lot of those programs to help people as they re enter was also meant to create risk assessment tools which look at someone needs record and various other factors to decide whether or not they are a risk to society and that way ideally we are able to look at people allow them to exit from prison and no because this person isn't going to be arrested anyone we feel okay letting them out even potentially earlier let me ask you about sentence reduction because as I mentioned just a minute ago more than three thousand people have been released now under this act can you explain what the process looks like for them to have gotten their sentences reduced right so a lot of the people who are having their sentences reduced were originally sentenced in the seventies and eighties as a part of the war war on war on drugs and so the the first act says that since we sentence people differently now we are going to look at those sentences that were given before and if they are no longer in line with what we would sentence you currently we're going to reduce those sentences many of them those sentences are reduced through petition some are reduced automatically there is also an expansion of the time which says that if you are incarcerated but you are taking part and programs that are meant to rehabilitate you whether that's job training or drug treatment or something of that sort you can have time taken off of your sentence and so they are different provisions to allow people to reduce their sentences and about a thousand seven hundred people have gotten reductions in their sentence since the first day back when to law and there's a reduction of about six years on average for people who have that reduction Lewis let me bring you into the conversation Jonathan just mentioned the war on drugs in the seventies and eighties this act is mainly aimed at people who were arrested during that time period many of them were black men what do we know about the demographics of the people who've been released under the act so far you know for decades the criminal justice our conversation among our political leaders especially both on the state and national level could be characterized as a race to the bottom it was a competition for who could be the toughest on crime who could lock up the most people and throw away the key it was also a conversation that was defined by dangerous rhetoric with no regard for empathy or second chances and you know essentially it dehumanize people I was one of those individuals that was in that conversation in two thousand I was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of a hundred and eighty eight months in for our listening audience I don't want to you know belabor the point in terms of you using your fingers and toes trying to figure that out that's a process that's approximately sixteen years I served almost fourteen years off that sixteen year federal prison sentence for a white collar related offenses most of the individuals by whom I was incarcerated with were not individuals that had got caught up in the war on drugs in the seventies and eighties in fact these individuals were caught up in the mid nineties to the early two thousands especially after the nineteen ninety four a clean crime bill ninety one percent of the individuals that were released under that particular provision that Jonathan talked about as it relates to the crack cocaine provision ninety one percent of those individuals were African Americans so let me just quantify these numbers of for you for second to date seven thousand people total have been released under the first step act I should say seven thousand people total haven't haven't received significant reductions in the have been released under for step back ninety one percent of those individuals happen to be African American who are African Americans who were sentenced under those draconian you know crack cocaine laws particularly pointing back to nineteen eighty seven moving up to nineteen ninety four and up to date until about approximately two thousand ten that has totaled that seven thousand number that has totaled approximately seventeen thousand years of human freedom that have been restored back to our community now think about this in the Christmas season Jesus was crucified approximately two thousand years ago and if we look at the numbers that actually places us back into BC so I think that this is something that is significant I am literally a pulled over on the side of the road twenty minutes away from MDC Brooklyn where I am going to be with the family who is going to have their loved one return back to them in this Christmas season after having served twenty years on a life sentence in that individual is going to be released as a result as a result of the first act and that's as a result of the advocacy with people such as myself to pick a case Sam David Safavian are you know cut fifties co founder van Jones and Jessica Jackson and the many other advocates in organizations that was in his are bipartisan coalition to make sure that we got this bill across the finish line Lewis let me ask you something because one of the act's major provisions as Johnson mentioned earlier was to place incarcerated individuals within a five hundred mile radius of their families so they would be closer to them why was that such an important part of this legislation yes so the reason why the five hundred mile provision is sick never get me a poor and within the first act is because of what it does one of several things number one in make sure is that individuals are connected with their families and that those relationships are cultivated between parents and their children number two it brings about a level of proximity to the individual who was incarcerated and also to the community and number three it actually reduces the probability of individuals who are incarcerated form participating and issues that very well could bring about institutional fractions so for instance if an individual is in proximity to of their last known address in they know that they are potentially going to see their mother or their father the family members of significant others accept or a they're going to be less likely to being engaged and fights assaults you know in the likes their own Jonathan the axe when it was passed last year it was hailed by president trump is a huge achievement in being able to bring the two parties together is loose mentioned it was largely a bipartisan effort why did this act appeal to politicians on both sides of the aisle so criminal justice reform brings people together in part because there's a strong moral push for it it's hard to argue and a lot of cases that someone who may have made a mistake should be put away for such a long time it's also incredibly expensive we spend billions of dollars incarcerating people especially here in the United States with the world's largest prison population we do we have over two point one million people in prison in the United States and I think that what that regardless of where you fall politically you can see that we are wasting a lot of money on putting people in cages on those people could be contributing to the economy those people could be with their families and so it really brings people together on either side and of course Jared Kushner hat is a father who's incarcerated in so he understand some of the issues that are being that are at play here and he was able to help usher along the political coalition that push to through the first step back and I think that we are also thinking a lot about mass incarceration the fact that we do have so many people put away the draconian laws that were just mentioned have.

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