by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The Department of Justice announced Monday that a vital component of the FIRST STEP Act would be designed under the direction of a right-of-center think tank, a move that may limit the breadth of individuals affected by it.
The bill, signed into law in December, was designed to both reform federal prisons and slightly reduce their populations. Its central component is the implementation of a new “time credit” system, which gives lower-risk prisoners 10 to 15 days of credit toward prerelease for every month of anti-recidivism training they have completed.
In order to implement the time credit system, however, the Bureau of Prisons will first need its own “risk assessment” tool to determine which people qualify as low or minimal risk. FIRST STEP does not specify what qualifies a person’s risk level, but instead instructs the attorney general to consult with an “independent review committee” to design the system. (DOJ was meant to designate a host of the committee within 30 days of the bill’s entry into law but was delayed by the December government shutdown.)
The Justice Department said Monday that the independent review committee will be hosted by the Hudson Institute, a right-leaning think tank based in Washington, D.C. Hudson will have the discretion to appoint committee members, who will work to advise on the shape of the final risk-adjustment tool.