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First Step Act addresses mandatory sentencing and more

Some inmates in Florida may be affected by certain provisions of the First Step Act if it passes. The bill is currently under consideration in Congress.

One of its major changes will be widening the scope of the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act's efforts to address a disparity between the legal treatment of people convicted of crack cocaine offenses compared to those convicted for cocaine offenses. The former tended to be African-American and got harsher sentences than the latter, who tended to be white, and this led to a racial disparity in prison. Around 2,600 prisoners would be affected by the First Step Act's provision to make this retroactive although they would still need to file a petition and appear in court.

The act also addresses mandatory minimum sentencing and automatic sentencing. At present, judges are only permitted discretion with this type of sentencing if the accused has no criminal record. That would be expanded to include people with a minimal criminal record. Certain automatic sentences, including the "three strikes" rule, would be reduced. The act would also address several other areas, some of which are already supposed to be enforced by the Bureau of Prisons but are not, such as no longer shackling pregnant inmates. There would be expanded opportunities for training and education and more chances for in-home supervision and halfway homes.

People who are facing charges for drug-related offenses, violent crimes, white-collar crimes or any other types of crimes may want to consult an attorney. It can be a mistake for a person to assume that consequences will not be very serious. For example, some people might think that they will not serve any time for a relatively minor drug offense or a white-collar crime, but this may not be the case. Furthermore, there can be additional consequences beyond the legal ones, such as career repercussions.

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