Last summer when several black conservative pastors paid a visit to the white house, members of the black community were skeptical of their actual intentions. A rare deal in Congress to overhaul federal sentencing laws passed recently, some say this was able to happen based on the alliance that was forged between trump and black leaders, lawmakers, and pastors.
The reform could be a path for freedom for several black and Latino inmates who have been systematically mistreated by the criminal justice system. The bill, which should be getting trumps signature soon, will give judges more discretion when sentencing some drug offenders and expands prisoner rehabilitation efforts. It also reduces life sentences for some drug offenders to 25 years instead.
Another provision will allow about 2,600 federal prisoners sentenced to crack cocaine offenses before august 2010, the opportunity to petition for a reduced sentence. This will benefit those in our community who were affected by the harsh sentencing for crack cocaine compared to other forms of cocaine.
Among the advocates for the legislation were presidential advisor Jared Kushner, Kim Kardashian West, the National Urban League, as well as black ministers and leaders.
Some of the bill’s advocates say it was a tough decision to work with a white house that is so unpopular amongst the black community. More than 8 out of 10 African-Americans said they thought Trump was a racist in a February poll by the Associated Press-NORC center for Public Affairs Research.
But even the supporters say they know this legislation is only the beginning, which is reflected in the name, The First Step Act.
Groups like NAACP cheered the passing of the bill but still had reservations.
“The legislation offers some important improvements to the current federal criminal justice system, but it falls short of providing any meaningful change that is required to make the system genuinely fair,” said Hilary O. Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington bureau.
The bill only affects the federal system, meaning anyone given harsh sentencing at the state and local level will have no recourse. Those inmates make up the bulk of the people behind bars in America.