Joseph J. Colarusso, Attorney at Law
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The First Step Act is truly just a first step

People who live in New York and find themselves charged with a criminal offense might feel trapped and as if they have no options. For many people, there can exist a tragic cycle that keeps them in jail or prison or prevents them from putting their lives on a better path. 

As reported by The Washington Post, the United States has the highest number of people in jails and prisons around the world. With more than two million people behind bars nationwide, the criminal justice system is in need of reform. A potentially bright spot in the problem is that it appears legislators on both sides of the political aisle agree on the need for reform, even if they do not always agree on the method. 

One piece of legislation was recently enacted and it may well provide some relief for those in federal prisons. Titled The First Step Act, this law aims to facilitate early release or shorter sentences for some defendants. It should be noted, however, that only about 10 percent of all people incarcerated in the U.S. are in federal institutions. This highlights the need for more active reform at the state and local levels.

An example of the problems that can be faced is the reality that many people are in custody simply because they do not have the financial resources to pay their bail, not because they were found guilty of a crime and then sentenced for it. Facility conditions and re-entry assistance are two areas where people need more help.



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