First step. False step.

Using Black Folks to keep a stranglehold on Democracy.

One of the main components of the First Step Act that folks are waving around like a kid with an ice cream cone, is the impact on time served and the possibility of folks being released from prison earlier. Now… How many people win the lottery? How many people PLAY the lottery? In order to provide the payout to the ONE person that WINS, how many folks have to PLAY? Well parole is like playing the lottery and that’s where ‘good time credits’ come in.

Recently the illustrious Van Jones crowned the imitable Donald Trump as the ‘Uniter-In-Chief’.

Upon reading the tweet, I was admittedly somewhat taken aback. No critique on Van Jones and where he chooses to toss his praises and accolades — God bless ’em.

You can’t do something about US — without US!

My quarrel is with the messaging around the First Step Act and what it is going to do for folks locked up, on parole or maybe just about to get locked up.

There’s a lot of old white guys, that are all of sudden concerned about young black men in prison and no one finds that suspect.

Firstly, this bill applies to the Bureau of Prisons, which oversees Federal prisons and prisoners. Folks in state prisons will be subjected to state laws and should this act became law, it will only serve as a ‘guidance’. Much like the EEOC rules are a guidance for local Fair Chance Hiring ordinances. Yes, it’s the law, but the Supreme Court ain’t gonna hear the case, unless you have superior standing.

My point? The narrative is strong on outcomes, but weak on substance. If you dig into the language of the bill, you will see from the outset: there’s boo-boo in the water and you shouldn’t drink any Kool-Aid made from said water source.

I’m going to skip the introduction language, because that’s a whole ‘nother post in itself. Let’s skip down to the Risk Assessments

Ҥ 3632. Development of risk and needs assessment system

“(a) In General. — Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of the FIRST STEP Act, the Attorney General shall develop and release a risk and needs assessment system (referred to in this subchapter as the ‘System’), which shall be used to —

(There’s a whole list — but we’re gonna go to Time Credits.

Where you wait for your ‘good time credits’ to accumulate.

“(4) TIME CREDITS. —

“(A) IN GENERAL. — A prisoner, except for an ineligible prisoner under subparagraph (D), who successfully completes evidence-based recidivism reduction programming or productive activities, shall earn time credits as follows:

“(i) A prisoner shall earn 10 days of time credits for every 30 days of successful participation in evidence-based recidivism reduction programming or productive activities.

“(ii) A prisoner determined by the Bureau of Prisons to be at a minimum or low risk for recidivating, who, over two consecutive assessments, has not increased their risk of recidivism, shall earn an additional 5 days of time credits for every 30 days of successful participation in evidence-based recidivism reduction programming or productive activities.

Everyone isn’t eligible for parole… Imagine that.

Except for the following folks…

“(D) INELIGIBLE PRISONERS. — A prisoner is ineligible to receive time credits under this paragraph if the prisoner is serving a sentence for a conviction under any of the following provisions of law:

“(i) Section 113(a)(1), relating to assault with intent to commit murder.

“(ii) Section 115, relating to influencing, impeding, or retaliating against a Federal official by injuring a family member, except for a threat made in violation of that section.

“(iii) Any section of chapter 10, relating to biological weapons.

“(iv) Any section of chapter 11B, relating to chemical weapons.

“(v) Section 351, relating to Congressional, Cabinet, and Supreme Court assassination, kidnapping, and assault.

“(vi) Section 793, relating to gathering, transmitting, or losing defense information.

“(vii) Section 794, relating to gathering or delivering defense information to aid a foreign government.

“(viii) Any section of chapter 39, relating to explosives and other dangerous articles, except for section 836 (relating to the transportation of fireworks into a State prohibiting sale or use).

“(ix) Section 842(p), relating to distribution of information relating to explosive, destructive devices, and weapons of mass destruction, but only if the conviction involved a weapon of mass destruction (as defined in section 2332a(c)(2) of such title).

“(x) Subsection (f)(3), (h), or (i) of section 844, relating to the use of fire or an explosive.

“(xi) Section 924(e), relating to unlawful possession of a firearm by a person with three or more convictions for a violent felony.

“(xii) Section 1030(a)(1), relating to fraud and related activity in connection with computers.

“(xiii) Any section of chapter 51, relating to homicide, except for section 1112 (relating to manslaughter), 1113 (relating to attempt to commit murder or manslaughter, but only if the conviction was for an attempt to commit manslaughter), 1115 (relating to misconduct or neglect of ship officers), or 1122 (relating to protection against the human immunodeficiency virus).

“(xiv) Any section of chapter 55, relating to kidnapping.

“(xv) Any offense under chapter 77, relating to peonage, slavery, and trafficking in persons, except for sections 1592 through 1596.

“(xvi) Section 1751, relating to Presidential and Presidential staff assassination, kidnapping, and assault.

“(xvii) Section 1841(a)(2)©, relating to intentionally killing or attempting to kill an unborn child.

“(xviii) Section 1992, relating to terrorist attacks and other violence against railroad carriers and against mass transportation systems on land, on water, or through the air.

“(xix) Section 2113(e), relating to bank robbery resulting in death.

“(xx) Section 2118(c)(2), relating to robberies and burglaries involving controlled substances resulting in death.

“(xxi) Section 2119(3), relating to taking a motor vehicle (commonly referred to as ‘carjacking’) that results in death.

“(xxii) Any section of chapter 105, relating to sabotage, except for section 2152.

“(xxiii) Any section of chapter 109A, relating to sexual abuse, except that with regard to section 2244, only a conviction under subsection © of that section (relating to abusive sexual contact involving young children) shall make a prisoner ineligible under this subparagraph.

“(xxiv) Section 2251, relating to the sexual exploitation of children.

“(xxv) Section 2251A, relating to the selling or buying of children.

“(xxvi) Any of paragraphs (1) through (3) of section 2252(a), relating to certain activities relating to material involving the sexual exploitation of minors.

“(xxvii) A second or subsequent conviction under any of paragraphs (1) through (6) of section 2252A(a), relating to certain activities relating to material constituting or containing child pornography.

“(xxviii) Section 2260, relating to the production of sexually explicit depictions of a minor for importation into the United States.

“(xxix) Section 2283, relating to the transportation of explosive, biological, chemical, or radioactive or nuclear materials.

“(xxx) Section 2284, relating to the transportation of terrorists.

“(xxxi) Section 2291, relating to the destruction of a vessel or maritime facility, but only if the conduct which led to the conviction involved a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury.

“(xxxii) Any section of chapter 113B, relating to terrorism.

“(xxxiii) Section 2340A, relating to torture.

“(xxxiv) Section 2381, relating to treason.

“(xxxv) Section 2442, relating to the recruitment or use of child soldiers.

“(xxxvi) Section 57(b) of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (42 U.S.C. 2077(b)), relating to the engagement or participation in the development or production of special nuclear material.

“(xxxvii) Section 92 of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (42 U.S.C. 2122), relating to prohibitions governing atomic weapons.

“(xxxviii) Section 101 of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (42 U.S.C. 2131), relating to the atomic energy license requirement.

“(xxxix) Section 224 or 225 of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (42 U.S.C. 2274, 2275), relating to the communication or receipt of restricted data.

“(xl) Section 236 of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (42 U.S.C. 2284), relating to the sabotage of nuclear facilities or fuel.

“(xli) Section 60123(b) of title 49, United States Code, relating to damaging or destroying a pipeline facility, but only if the conduct which led to the conviction involved a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury.

“(xlii) Section 401(a) of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 841), relating to manufacturing or distributing a controlled substance, but only in the case of a conviction for an offense described in subparagraph (A), (B), or © of subsection (b)(1) of that section for which death or serious bodily injury resulted from the use of such substance.

“(xliii) Section 276(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1326), relating to the reentry of a removed alien, but only if the alien is described in paragraph (1) or (2) of subsection (b) of that section.

“(xliv) Any section of the Export Administration Act of 1979 (50 U.S.C. App. 2401 et seq.)

“(xlv) Section 206 of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1705).

“(xlvi) Section 601 of the National Security Act of 1947 (50 U.S.C. 3121), relating to the protection of identities of certain United States undercover intelligence officers, agents, informants, and sources.

Writer | Formerly Incarcerated