Over the years, media agencies around the world covered the high incarceration rates in America compared to other First World countries. Bipartisan pressure also compelled federal and state-level changes that spearheaded a greater focus on rehabilitating people instead of attempting to punish them for alleged crimes.
Considering that many innocent people plead guilty simply because they do not believe they can win their cases, moving away from punishment offers a better opportunity at a second chance they should not need in the first place. Rehabilitation also provides important benefits for the people who do need a second chance to turn their lives around.
What are the effects of current bipartisan rehab laws?
The First Step Act received bipartisan support to tackle the high incarceration rates in America, especially among minorities. In 2019, NBC News reported that the First Step Act led to reduced sentences for 1,700 people and the release of 3,000 people facing charges for crack cocaine offenses. Most of the people released so far are Black men who were most affected by the “war on drugs” campaign. Another potential benefit of the program is that 16,000 prison inmates enrolled in drug rehabilitation programs.
What is the way forward?
While a bipartisan coalition created the act and may continue to hold, left-leaning advocates still want more changes. Among these are cries for changes at the heart of the justice system, such as how law enforcement officers patrol certain communities and interact with minorities. Some experts say it would require dismantling the entire system to make this possible, but others believe baby steps might create lasting changes over time.
One 2019 New York Times article proposes that if the public had greater insight into what happened inside the prison system, there might be greater cries for reform. The article describes an environment that makes true rehabilitation while inside prison walls almost impossible due to sometimes complete lack of respect or humane treatment for inmates. With time and greater societal pressure, more complete change might follow.