For those who remember Samuel Becket’s play, Waiting for Godot, then the implementation of the First Step Act will be a déjà vu’. In the play, two individuals await the arrival of someone who never comes. The First Step Act, uncannily similar to the Second Chance Act of 2007, is beginning to look like that.
With all the bipartisan buzz that went with its passage, and the photo ops of the President signing it, one would have thought the momentum would carry into its implementation by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. However, never underestimate the power of the BOP bureaucracy. According to the bill, one of the initial acts was for the Attorney General to create a “risk assessment” tool to assess each inmate to determine their recidivism risk level. He had 210 days to appoint an Independent Review Committee to achieve that goal. Progress to date—zero.
Even the simplest of tasks under the legislation—restoring seven days good time for every inmate based on the original requirement of the Sentencing Guidelines—has not begun. Given this lack of progress, how can anyone expect the BOP to fulfill other challenging mandates such as “…Establish incentives and rewards for prisoners to participate in programming and activities”?
The First Step Act has all the bells and whistles to achieve significant reform in the Federal Bureau of Prisons. However, like the quote from Becket’s character: “We always find something to give us the impression we exist”. Let’s hope the BOP turns impressions into reality.