The federal government’s failure to adequately fund the implementation of the First Step Act, a recent law reforming parts of the criminal justice system, has resulted in a mixed bag of successes and failures.
Some count the early release of minor drug offenders a success but others fault the failure to install a support system to help former convicts stay out of jail. Also missing funds was a program intended to develop a risk and needs assessment tool that would determine what kind of assistance could be provided to former inmates.
Ayesha Rascoe filed this report on the First Step Act on the National Public Radio website:
As a part of the requirement for the expanded programs, the law mandated development of a risk and needs assessment tool that would be used to assess each inmate and determine what types of programs they could participate in and the incentives they could receive.
The tool is critical to imposing the new network of programming, but the Justice Department already has missed one deadline for development.
The attorney general must consult with an outside review committee about how to set up the risk assessment tool. This committee envisioned by the law was supposed to be stood up 30 days after First Step’s enactment, but it has not yet been created.
With the committee not yet in place, there are questions about whether the government will meet the July deadline for developing the system. Kevin Ring, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, says there hasn’t been much clarity from the administration on the status of these measures. “All the timelines were ambitious, so it’s not surprising that they haven’t met them all,” Ring said. “It’s just it seems to be a bit of a black box. We don’t know what’s taking so long.”
Complicating matters further, Congress passed the law but has not appropriated funds for the initiative.