The Trump administration signed a new bi-partisan law last year called the First Step Act. The Act allows federal courts to release prisoners who are serving time for non-violent felonies.
Mr. Barr recently visited a medium custody facility in North Carolina, where he met with the facility’s staff and prisoners while inspecting the premises. He liked what he saw.
“I’m impressed with how it’s going,” Barr said of the First Step Act’s implementation. “While there are a few things I probably would have done differently, I generally support the thrust of the First Step Act.”
Barr’s tough-on-crime policies seem to be loosening-up. Like many politicians and people throughout the country, Barr feels that prisoners who served maximum time for non-violent crimes should be considered for release.
One such prisoner, Leroy Nolan, was arrested for drugs in the 1990’s. Now 67-years-old, he has served more than 20 years of his sentence and meets the criteria for parole.
Nolan works in a prison factory making T-shirts, backpacks and other goods for government agencies or non-profits.
One of the major stumbling blocks for First Step’s success is providing enough vocational, educational, technology programs to help prisoners find work upon release. Early release advocates are pushing the Trump Administration to allocate more funding to them.
Inimai Chettiar of the Justice Action Network worries that Congress could stall early release funding and put proper implementation on hold.
Chettiar’s concerns are valid. When Barr toured he noticed that prisoners completed their work on old computers, and prisoners mentored and facilitated groups rather than outside instructors.
As more prisoners become eligible for parole, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find the money to sustain viable programs and help prisoners gain their freedom to work or engage in a trade. Ultimately, the Justice Department and Barr have to be more than “all-in.” They also need to push for necessary funding.