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First Step Law Will Allow Release of 2,200 Inmates Soon

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The 320-acre Federal Correctional Institute in Englewood, Co., is poised to play a leading role in implementing the First Step Act, USA Today reports. Justice Department officials, including Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, have visited Englewood to tout rehabilitation programs that could be key to supporting the early release and re-entry of  federal inmates under the new law. At Englewood, a culinary arts program trains aspiring chefs to make artisanal breads, pastries and cakes. An inmate architectural drafting operation has designed hundreds of chain restaurants and is assisting with a flood prevention project for the Port Authority of New York. Thirteen inmates are part of a roofing and road paving crew that travels the U.S. working at federal installations from the Great Lakes to New England. Crew members, many of whom have acquired valuable commercial drivers’ licenses in prison and the skills to operate heavy machinery, have saved taxpayers nearly $30 million in labor costs during the past three years.

Attorney General William Barr next week is expected to unveil a tool that could shave years from the sentences of non-violent offenders under First Step. On July 19, the law will permit the release of an estimated 2,200 offenders based on a re-calculation of the credit they receive for good behavior while in custody. “I think they are doing their best to get prepared,” said Kevin Ring of Families Against Mandatory Minimums. “The real test will be in the implementation of all of the different pieces.” Ring said more attention and money is needed to support job training and drug treatment. His group is disappointed that several classes of offenders are barred from getting increased credits by participating in rehabilitation programs, including those convicted of terrorism, human trafficking, sex crimes, weapons-related offenses, some fraud crimes and drug traffickers.

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