New York Miscellaneous Reforms
As noted in our previous sections, the Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person Act, also known as the FIRST STEP Act, brought multiple reforms to the criminal justice system. This included: 1) the retroactive application of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which corrected the unfair and unreasonable disparity between sentences for crack and cocaine related offenses; 2) the broadening of the safety valve which permits judges to ignore mandatory minium sentences for narcotics offenses under certain circumstances; 3) increasing good time and merit based credits towards prison sentences; 4) restricting sentencing enhancements for prior drug offenses; and 5) restricting sentencing enhancements for weapons offenses. The Act also contained numerous less sweeping reforms to the criminal justice system which still will impact numerous prisoners and families with incarcerated loved ones, including the following:
- A general ban on the use of waist or leg restraints, i.e., shackles, on pregnant prisoners and those in the immediate postpartum recovery stage;
- Significantly curtailing the permitted use of solitary confinement for juvenile prisoners to a limited set of circumstances;
- To the extent practicable, designating inmates to prison facilities within 500 miles of their primary residence;
- Placing inmates with low risks of recidivism in home confinement instead of jails as early as permitted by law;
- Increasing the use of compassionate release for elderly and terminally ill inmates serving sentences for non-violent offices; and
- Adopting new treatments for prisoners for opiod dependencies.