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First Step Act allows early release of inmates next week: A look at Missouri’s numbers


More than 2,000 people are slated to be released from prison early on July 19, a result of the federal First Step Act signed into law in 2018. 

The First Step — or the Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person — Act is essentially a directive for the Justice Department to establish a person’s risk assessment to re-offend as well as creating housing and other incentives for individuals to participate in recidivism reduction programs. 

“The legislation reformed sentencing laws that have wrongly and disproportionately harmed the African American community,” President Donald Trump has said of the bipartisan measure. “The First Step Act gives nonviolent offenders the chance to reenter society as productive, law-abiding citizens.” 

About 2,200 inmates are scheduled to be released early due to good behavior next week, a spokesperson from the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) confirmed to The Missouri Times. However, the spokesperson could not say how many of those individuals are Missourians or plan to return to the state. 

Thus far, only 39 people in Missouri have been granted a motion for a sentence reduction under the First Step Act, according to the U.S. Sentencing Commission. That includes 20 people from eastern Missouri and 19 from the western half of the state. 

In the Eighth Circuit in eastern Missouri, the average prisoner saw a decrease of 38 months in his or her sentence — or approximately an 18.2 percent decrease. However, in western Missouri, the average inmate received a reduction of 100 months, 34.9 percent, from his or her sentence. 

On average, the Eighth Circuit saw an average 29.2 percent decrease in sentences. 

Missouri legislators pushed a statewide version of the First Step Act in the 2019 session. HCB 2 ultimately did not make it out of the House.