Washington, DC – Over one-hundred sex offenders and violent criminals have been released from prison as a result of bipartisan legislation that lawmakers previously vowed would only affect inmates convicted of so-called “minor” drug offenses.
The legislation, dubbed the “First Step Act,” was established to help fix an allegedly “broken” criminal justice system that has historically “disproportionately harmed communities of color,” New Jersey Senator Cory Booker said in the past, according to FOX News.
The bill was heralded by President Donald Trump during the State of the Union address earlier this year.
“This legislation reformed sentencing laws that have wrongly and disproportionately harmed the African-American community,” the President declared. “The First Step Act gives nonviolent offenders the chance to reenter society as productive, law-abiding citizens. Now, states across the country are following our lead. America is a nation that believes in redemption.”
On July 19, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it would be releasing 3,100 federal inmates as part of the First Step Act, which provides an increase in “good conduct time,” according to a press release.
Over 850 of the 3,100 inmates who were released were transferred to state prisons or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody, FOX News reported.
Despite lawmakers’ promises, only 960 of the 2,243 federal inmates released onto the streets were serving time for drug-related convictions.
One hundred six were serving prison time for robbery, 118 for burglary/larceny, 178 for fraud/extortion/bribery, and 496 for explosives and weapons-related offenses.
Two hundred thirty-nine offenders were serving sentences for sex offenses, 59 for aggravated assault/homicide, 46 were in prison on immigration-related charges, and nine offenders had been convicted of embezzlement/counterfeiting.
Two other convicts were serving sentences for national security-related charges.
Thirty-five of the offenders were Asian/Pacific Islander, 62 were American Indian, 1,017 were black, and 1,129 were white.
Only 211 of the released inmates were female.
“We were told that this would only allow low-level, nonviolent criminals to go free,” Louisiana Senator John Kennedy said, according to FOX News. “I didn't believe it, and I didn't believe it because I read the bill.”
The Republican senator said that the promises and assurances that preceded the bill were a “complete lie.”
“Now we find out that in the first traunch of prisoners let free, 500 committed weapons or explosive crimes, 250 committed sex crimes, I think there were 60 or 70 that were guilty of homicide or aggravated assault,” Kennedy continued. “And those are not low-level, nonviolent criminals.”
"Good intentions sometimes have nothing to do with actual consequences," he added. “Justice exists when people get what they deserve. Justice is not necessarily deterrence, or rehabilitation, though that can be a byproduct."
Kennedy further argued that some people are simply “bad,” and must be removed from society.
“When they commit criminal acts, justice required they be punished,” he said.
Implementation of the First Step Act comes at a price of $75 million in taxpayer dollars annually, which Congress has authorized through 2023, according to the DOJ.
Funds will be funneled into increasing vocational, educational, certification, medication assistance, and several other programs aimed at rehabilitation.
The DOJ has also increased the use of “home confinement” for approximately 2,000 “low risk” inmates.
“Our communities are safer when we do a better job of rehabilitating offenders in our custody and preparing them for a successful transition to life after incarceration,” Attorney General William Barr said in the DOJ release. “The Department is committed to and has been working towards full implementation of the First Step Act, which will help us effectively deploy resources to help reduce risk, recidivism, and crime.”