FSSA on 01/16/2019 by Suzanne Tryan
Currently, per the Welfare Reform Act of 1996, individuals who are convicted of an offense that occurred on or after 8-22-96, and had an element of possession, use or distribution of a controlled substance, are ineligible for SNAP.
Indiana passed legislation (IC 12-14-30-3) effective January 1, 2020, that will allow for SNAP applicants and recipients who have a drug related felony conviction to be considered for eligibility for SNAP if at least one of several conditions exist:
- The individual has successfully completed probation, parole, community corrections, a reentry court program, or any other postconviction monitoring program ordered by a court.
- The individual is successfully complying with the individual’s conditions of probation, parole, or community corrections, the terms of participation in a reentry court program, or the requirements of any other postconviction monitoring program ordered by a court.
Applications for SNAP are processed by the Division of Family Resources, a part of FSSA. We hope that communicating this change in advance will increase the awareness of this change and allow for communication between the Division of Family Resources and supervisory agencies.
It is hoped that this opportunity to receive SNAP benefits may contribute to lowering the instances of recidivism and increasing the instances of successful transition back to the community.
Questions regarding this change can be routed to Suzanne Tryan at Suzanne.Tryan@fssa.in.gov or 317-234-8708.
Indiana Supreme Court on 01/16/2019 by Chief Justice Loretta Rush
Indiana Chief Justice Loretta H. Rush addressed the Governor and a joint session of the Indiana General Assembly for the annual State of the Judiciary. The formal update on the work of the judicial branch was held Wednesday, January 16, 2019 at 2:00 p.m. EST in the chamber of the Indiana House of Representatives.
Read the text and view the State of the Judiciary here.
FSSA on 12/1/2018 by Angela Boarman
Over the past three years the Recovery Works team has had the opportunity to serve over 35,000 unique individuals across the State of Indiana. Read more in this downloadable PDF: Recovery Works Update for Criminal Justice Partners.
WISH TV on 01/10/2019 by Elizabeth Choi
Johnson County is saving taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars by putting low-level offenders to work at an animal shelter.
People who have been convicted of minor offenses, a misdemeanor or an infraction, qualify for the partnership between the court and the Johnson County Animal Shelter. A judge can order community service to be completed at the shelter.
Some of the offenders work at the animal shelter to avoid jail time, while others work in exchange for their charges being dismissed. Others have to complete the community service as part of a sentence.
Job responsibilities at the shelter include: cleaning, yard work or offering work in a trade where they specialize. One offender, for example, painted the facility.
“It allows us to do more with our budget: things like treating sick and injured animals, building more play areas,” said shelter director Michael Delp. He continued, “It also gives them a sense of accomplishment. If I’m working off my debt to society, this is something tangible. So, I’m glad we can give them an opportunity to do so.”
Delp added that shelter has never seen a repeat offender since the program began in 2012. Since then, offenders have logged about 15,000 hours at the shelter. If the county would have paid workers minimum wage to complete those hours, it would have paid out more than $116,000 to workers.
Last year, the program saved the county close to $21,000, Delp said.
Offenders from surrounding counties, including Marion, and some from out of state, have participated in the program.
Indiana Court Times on 12/04/2018 by Marcus Alan McGhee
A Snapshot of New Social Media Challenges
Judiciaries across the nation appear to have received the message from judicial conduct commissions regarding vitriolic posts on social media platforms. Such commentary has been condemned as indecorous and lacking the unbiased impartiality required from the bench.
However, as judicial discipline cases and advisory opinions about social media have been handed down, the way judicial officers communicate online has not necessarily stopped, but shifted, from an active user to a more passive one. The question then becomes – is this new passive nature any less riddled with ethical pitfalls?
The Perils Faced by a Passive User
Liking a Post
While not actively stating support for a person, organization, or cause, a judge can be seen as illustrating her support when she likes, shares, reposts, retweets, or follows a person, a post, or an organization.
Each gesture acts as a tacit endorsement. The Facebook Help Center states that “clicking Like below a post on Facebook is a way to let people know that you enjoy it without leaving a comment.” And “just like a comment, anyone who can see the post can see that you liked it.” Continue reading →
Evansville Courier and Press on 01/08/2019 by Segann March
EVANSVILLE, Ind. — While the nearly three-week government shutdown has impacted more than 800,000 federal employees and various agencies nationwide, its local impact has been minimal.
News reports surfaced over the weekend that one well-known federal initiative — Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — may have limited funding after Jan. 31 which would impact the over 12 percent of Vanderburgh County households receiving food stamps.
The SNAP provides the benefits commonly known as food stamps and, as of now, “will continue operations and eligible households will receive monthly benefits for January,” according to a statement from the federal agency.
USDA announced Tuesday that SNAP beneficiaries will receive full benefits in February, which will be readily available on EBT cards on or before Jan. 20, if states request an early issuance to USDA.
“We know that this is a time of great uncertainty and no doubt some anxiety for the people that rely on SNAP, and dealing with tough times,” Brandon Lipps, Acting Deputy Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services (FNCS) said during a media briefing Tuesday afternoon. “Our child nutrition programs have sufficient funding to continue operations through March.”
USDA is still considering various options for March benefits, they announced. There is $3 billion in the contingency fund; however, those funds aren’t being used to provide February benefits.
In 2016, nearly 319,000 households throughout Indiana were SNAP recipients, according to the USDA.
Other agencies in the region have felt little impact.
Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
TSA personnel are employed under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which monitors security for flight passengers.
USA Today reported that nearly 38,000 employees of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security have been furloughed since the government shutdown.
A reported sickout by still working TSA employees nationwide in response to the federal government shutdown hasn’t impacted Evansville Regional Airport TSA agents, local officials said.
EVV marketing director Leslie Fella said the number of TSA employees calling in sick locally since the shutdown has remained consistent with this time of year in year’s past.
The Indianapolis Star reported Monday that TSA agents appeared to be fully staffed at the Indianapolis International Airport this week.
TSA agents, like many government workers, will not receive paychecks due to the shutdown.
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) in Vanderburgh County will not be affected by the government’s shutdown.
Funding for the program is in “good shape” for Vanderburgh residents, said Mary Ellen Stonestreet, WIC coordinator at the Vanderburgh County Health Department.
“We are in good financial standing, and we do have funding until the end of September,” she said. “We are funded until that time. Clients will still be able to get their WIC benefits at the grocery (stores). There are funds to pay the groceries for the WIC food.”
The program provides Federal grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals and nutrition education for breastfeeding, non-breastfeeding post-partum and low-income pregnant women, infants and children.
The National Park Service stated on its website that some national parks will remain accessible to visitors, but access can change without notice. And some parks are closed completely due to the government shutdown.
“For most parks, there will be no National Park Service-provided visitor services such as restrooms, trash collection, facilities or road maintenance,” according to the website.
The George Rogers Clark National Historical Park in Vincennes, Indiana, and Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial Park in Spencer County, Indiana, are accessible to the public as of now, although services there are restricted. Some Mammoth Cave National Park areas are accessible but there are no services available
About 401 parks, monuments and cultural sites operated by the National Park Service closed due to the 2013 government shutdown.
Houston Chronicle on 01/07/2019 by Keri Blakinger and Gabrielle Banks
Less than a week after the new jurists were sworn into office, Harris County’s misdemeanor judges on Monday withdrew their appeal in the landmark lawsuit over local bail practices that a federal judge said unfairly targeted poor people accused of crimes.
The historic litigation began in 2016, when attorneys and civil rights groups sued the county on behalf of defendants jailed for days because they couldn’t afford bond on low-level offenses. Though Chief U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal said the practice was unconstitutional and amounted to wealth-based detention, so far the county has spent more than $9 million in legal fees to fight the case, according to Harris County Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis.
But many saw the Democratic wave in November’s elections as a sign of change ahead – and Monday’s court filings look to be one of the first indicators of that shift.
“It’s going to be a new day,” Neal Manne, attorney for the plaintiffs, said in November just after the ballot-box sweep. And now, according to Judge Darrell Jordan – the one misdemeanor judge who did not lose his bench in the last election – the parties have already begun hashing out a settlement they hope to have in place in the next few weeks.
“Our goal is have this accomplished by February 1, 2019,” Jordan told the Houston Chronicle.
One of a series of documents filed in recent days, the two-page motion simply lists the names of the new judges – who automatically replaced their predecessors as defendants in the suit – and asks that the case be dismissed. The court granted the motion and dismissed the appeal by mid-day.
The Indiana Lawyer on 01/02/2019 by Dave Stafford
A man’s argument that the execution of a suspended sentence for a crime he committed while on probation was an unduly harsh sanction failed before the Indiana Court of Appeals.
The COA on Monday affirmed a Bartholomew Circuit Court order requiring Nicholas L. Porter to serve two years that had been suspended to probation after he was convicted of Level 6 felony theft. The order was issued after Porter admitted he had committed a new offense, unauthorized entry of a motor vehicle, while on probation. Porter also had missed appointments with his probation officer, which he argued was due to being in jail.
On appeal, Porter argued the sanction against him was unduly harsh and the trial court abused its discretion by failing to credit as a mitigator his admission that he committed another crime while on probation. The COA rejected the argument in a four-page order in Nicholas L. Porter v. State of Indiana, 18A-CR-1931.
“Probation is a matter of grace left to trial court discretion, not a right to which a criminal defendant is entitled,” Judge L. Mark Bailey wrote for the panel, citing Prewitt v. State, 878 N.E.2d 184, 188 (Ind. 2007). The panel also noted Porter’s history of property crimes and probation violations.
“As Porter has displayed an unwillingness to avail himself of rehabilitative efforts, we find no abuse of the trial court’s discretion in ordering him to serve two years of his original sentence. … To the extent Porter suggests that the trial court was required to treat his admission as a guilty plea and accord it mitigating weight in a balancing of sentencing factors, we disagree.
“Indiana Code Section 35-38-2-3 sets forth the appropriate procedure, respective duties of the State and courts, and the rights of a defendant, in a probation revocation proceeding,” Bailey continued. “This governing statute imposes no requirement upon the trial court to balance aggravating and mitigating circumstances and issue a sentencing statement when imposing a sanction for a probation violation.”
The Indiana Lawyer on 1-2-2019 by Olivia Covington
Finding the circumstances of an Orange County case to be “exceptional,” a majority of the Indiana Supreme Court has reduced a woman’s sentence and ordered that she be removed from the Department of Correction and instead placed in community corrections. A dissenting justice would have denied transfer of the case.
Friday’s decision in Lisa Livingston v. State of Indiana, 18S-CR-623, stems from Lisa Livingston’s August 2013 arrest on drug charges. Police received a tip that Livingston was making and dealing meth from her home, and a subsequent search revealed several baggies of meth, one baggie of cocaine and other items used in the production of meth.
After being charged with five drug counts and allegations that she was a habitual substance offender, Livingston posted bond and was released to Bliss House, a substance abuse recovery home where she first took up residence in November 2013. She then began filing a series of 10 motions to continue her trial over the next four years, each of which was granted without state objection.
Livingston remained at Bliss House for one year before moving to a transitional home for two years, eventually becoming the chair of the Bliss House alumni and serving on its committee. She also started a roofing business with her nephew and used her money to open BreakAway Home, a Floyd County home for women recovering from addictions.
Then, after being denied placement in a pre-trial detention program, Livingston voluntarily joined a Floyd County Community Corrections program, where she reported twice a week and successfully passed all of her random drug screens. She eventually pleaded guilty to all of the charges against her without a plea agreement in October 2017 and asked that she be allowed to serve her sentence in community corrections.
Scienmag on 9/25/2018
A new and free science-based curriculum designed to teach adolescents about the risks of opioids has been released by Project ALERT, a national evidence-based drug education program created and managed by the nonprofit RAND Corporation.
The curriculum is available for download from the Project ALERT website at http://www.projectalert.com. The opioid risk curriculum is part of the 14 lesson plans offered as a part of Project ALERT, which is intended for middle school students.
“As the nation works to address the opioid epidemic, there is a need for high-quality materials that can help educators teach young people about the risks of prescription opioid misuse and heroin,” said Eric Pedersen, director of Project ALERT and a senior behavioral scientist at RAND. “This Project ALERT lesson has the advantage of being free to users and part of a program demonstrated to prevent drug and alcohol use during middle school.”
The opioid curriculum includes a student-involved lecture, roleplays, homework to review with parents, and informational handouts. Developed over 18 months, the lesson was pilot tested in several classrooms in the spring of 2018 to obtain facilitator, student, and teacher feedback.
The effectiveness of Project ALERT has been demonstrated by randomized controlled trials and is used by more than 4,000 schools across the United States.
RAND Health is the nation’s largest independent health policy research program, with a broad research portfolio that focuses on health care costs, quality and public health preparedness, among other topics.
NY Times on 12/11/2018 by By Katharine Q. Seelye, Julie Turkewitz, Jack Healy and Alan Blinder
Left: Kelmae Hemphill, 11 months sober. Center: images of overdoses published on YouTube. Right: Mandy McGowan, two years sober.
Amid an opioid crisis, police and strangers with cameras are posting raw images of drug users passed out. For those whose bleakest moments now live online, life is never the same.
The first time Kelmae Hemphill watched herself overdose, she sobbed. There she was in a shaky video filmed by her own heroin dealer, sprawled out on a New Jersey road while a stranger pounded on her chest. “Come on, girl,” someone pleaded.
Ms. Hemphill’s 11-year drug addiction, her criminal record, her struggles as a mother — they were now everybody’s business, splashed across the news and social media with a new genre of American horror film: the overdose video.
As opioid deaths have soared in recent years, police departments and strangers with cameras have started posting raw, uncensored images of drug users passed out with needles in their arms and babies in the back seats of their cars. The videos rack up millions of views and unleash avalanches of outrage. Then some other viral moment comes along, and the country clicks away.
But life is never the same for the people whose bleakest, most humiliating moments now live online forever. In interviews with The New York Times, they talked — some for the very first time — about the versions of themselves captured in the videos.
Ms. Hemphill’s mother watched the 2016 video of her overdose. Her friends saw it. Even her daughter, now 11, watched the images of Ms. Hemphill passed out beside a guardrail in West Deptford, N.J., her stomach exposed as the medics rushed in. “Why bother saving her?” asked one YouTube commenter. “I would’ve let her die,” said another.
“When you type my name in, that’s the first video that pops up — an overdose video,” Ms. Hemphill said. Continue reading →
Indiana Office of Court Services on 12/20/2018
To the Bench, Bar and Public:
The Indiana Judicial Conference Board of Directors and Court Alcohol and Drug Program Advisory Committee (CADPAC) seek public comment on proposed amendments to Rules for Court-Administered Alcohol & Drug Programs.
CADPAC proposes amending five sections and adding a new section on chemical testing. The most significant change is proposed for Section 31 on substance abuse education standards. CADPAC proposes to restrict the education curricula used to two national companies that provide evidence-based education courses. The proposed changes also include the request to remove the requirement that programs have referral agreements with treatment providers when they refer 10 or more clients in a year to that provider. The new chemical testing section provides that if a program drug tests its clients, policy and procedure for drug testing must conform to the requirements of this section.
Proposed Amendments to Court Alcohol & Drug Program Rules
The Board invites public feedback on the proposed rule amendments through January 22, 2019. Submit written comments online or by mail to:
Indiana Office of Court Services
251 N. Illinois Street, Suite 800
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Vera by Oliver Hinds and Jack Norton
Jail Expansion as Prison Reform in Indiana
During the 2016 presidential race, Governor Mike Pence said: “We need to adopt criminal justice reform nationally. I signed criminal justice reform in the state of Indiana, and we are very proud of it.” He was referring to House Bill 1006, which he signed on May 5, 2015 after it passed the state House and Senate without a single opposing vote. The bill was, among other things, designed to reduce the number of people in prison by housing people convicted of low-level felonies in county jails. It was lauded by many as part of a trend towards bipartisan prison reform. Any positive effect, however, was short-lived. Indiana’s prison population decreased and then quickly rebounded to pre-reform levels. Now, the total number of people behind bars in Indiana is exploding as more and more are sent to jail, and as people in prison serve longer sentences. To ease the jail overcrowding precipitated by the bill, many counties are expanding their jails or constructing new ones, the costs of which are borne by taxpayers in Indiana. At the same time, the most vulnerable residents languish in county jails, sometimes far from home, and face a landscape marked by poverty and high overdose rates upon release.
Much of HB1006 was catalyzed by a justice reform effort initiated in 2010, under then-Governor Mitch Daniels, to address rising prison incarceration and increased corrections spending in the state.* Once implemented, however, the bill worked to drastically increase incarceration in Indiana; in the two years following reform, the county jail population rose 32 percent from 16,100 to 21,300. Continue reading →
CNN Health on 12/17/2018 by Jacqueline Howard
Vaping among America’s teenagers continues to climb, while the use of other substances — such as alcohol and opioids — has declined in recent years, according to a new report.
Monday’s report, called Monitoring the Future, comes from the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research and is based on an annual survey of drug and alcohol use and attitudes among eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders in the United States. This year’s survey included 44,482 students from 392 public and private schools across the country.
Behind drinking alcohol, vaping was the second-most common form of substance use, the study showed, with 17.6% of eighth-graders, 32.3% of 10th-graders and 37.3% of 12th-graders reporting vaping in the past year. Last year, the annual survey found that prevalence of vaping was 13.3% among eighth-graders, 23.9% among 10th-graders and 27.8% among 12th-graders.
Vaping involves using an electronic cigarette, hookah or similar device to inhale certain vapors or aerosols, which could contain substances such as nicotine, marijuana or flavoring.
“What we are seeing is a change in the patterns of drug taking among teenagers in that they are the lowest that we’ve seen for many years,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which funded the report.
“So we have very good news,” she said, “but at the same time, we have to be vigilant, because of this very high uptake and embracing of vaping by teenagers that could lead them then to the administration of other drugs.”
Vaping: ‘A real problem’
This year is the second in which the Monitoring the Future survey asked high schoolers about vaping specific substances: nicotine, marijuana or “just flavoring.”
Flavoring was the most commonly reported substance among eighth-graders at 15.1%, followed by nicotine at 10.9% and then marijuana at 4.4%.
Tenth-graders reported identical rates for flavoring and nicotine, but 12.4% reported vaping marijuana. Among 12th-graders, 29.7% reported vaping nicotine, 25.7% flavoring and 13.1% marijuana.
“You’re seeing right now that 30% of 12th-graders last year were exposed to nicotine,” Volkow said.
“Another issue of concern is, these devices are very efficient at delivering drugs rapidly into your brain and, in so doing, deliver the drugs in ways that make them more addictive — and so it’s not just nicotine. Now we also know that they are using it for 9THC,” or tetrahydrocannabinol, a cannabinoid chemical in marijuana, she said.
Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, a professor of pediatrics in Stanford University’s Division of Adolescent Medicine, called this increase in vaping alarming but not surprising because of new products, such as those from popular e-cigarette maker Juul.
“However, since MTF doesn’t appear to separate out vaping vs. Juuling in their survey, it is hard to know what the youth are using,” Halpern-Felsher said of the new report.
“The overall decline or stabilization of other drug use is promising, although the increase in vaping marijuana is concerning,” she said. “Clearly, youth drug prevention messages needs to go beyond conventional drugs and include all forms of nicotine and vaping.”
The overall increase in vaping in the survey appears to be consistent with data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing a 78% increase in youth vaping between 2017 and 2018, said Dr. Pamela Ling, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, who works with the school’s Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education and was not involved with the new report.
The Food and Drug Administration “has also recognized an ‘epidemic’ of youth vaping. The consistency of these data suggests this is a real problem,” Ling said.
“While we see declines in cigarette smoking among youth, the increases in vaping may lead to overall rates of tobacco or nicotine use increasing. We also know from many longitudinal studies of youth that those who use e-cigarettes are about three times more likely to start smoking cigarettes,” she said. “The increase in vaping goes against the trends for all other drugs and alcohol, which are declining. That’s a problem.”
In historical context, “the absolute increases in the prevalence of nicotine vaping among 12th-graders and 10th-graders are the largest ever recorded by Monitoring the Future in the 44 years that it has continuously tracked dozens of substances,” the authors of the report wrote in a letter to the editor Monday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Meanwhile, the traditional use of cigarettes remained at the lowest levels in the survey’s history.
Daily cigarette use was reported by 0.8% of eighth-graders, 1.8% of 10th-graders and 3.6% of 12th-graders in 2018, the survey showed. Lifetime cigarette use among 12th-graders went down from 26.6% in 2017 to 23.8% in 2018, and past-month use declined from 9.7% to 7.6%.
In general, substances at historic low levels of use in 2018 were alcohol, cigarettes, heroin, prescription opioids, MDMA (ecstasy or Molly), methamphetamine, amphetamines, sedatives and ketamine, according to the report.
Alcohol and opioid use dropping among teens
Even though alcohol and binge drinking rates appeared to be on the decline, alcohol was still “the most frequently used substance” in the report, Volkow said.
Past-month use of alcohol was reported by 8.2%, 18.6% and 30.2% of eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders, respectively, according to the survey. Yet the percentage of teenagers who reported ever using alcohol dropped as much as 58% from its peak in 1994.
“Even parents have a tolerance to alcohol, and in many instances, they maybe even provide the alcohol for parties that they are holding in their house, with the sense that, what harm is there to let teenagers drink when they are home?” Volkow said.
“So we have a culture about drinking that is very accepted but that is slowly changing. I think changes in attitudes are in part responsible about why we’re seeing the decreases.”
The new report also showed a significant drop over the past five years in the percentage of teenagers, particularly 12th-graders, using opioids despite the ongoing epidemic among adults in the United States
“It’s fascinating that despite the fact that we have very high rates of opioids and heroin among adults, adolescents have the lowest rates that we have seen since the inception of the survey,” Volkow said.
For instance, Vicodin use dropped by 58.4% in eighth-graders, 75.4% in 10th-graders and 67.2% in 12th-graders over the past five years, according to the report.
The survey also showed a shift in how easy teens think opioid drugs are to access.
One in three 12th-graders, or 32.5%, said in this year’s report that prescription opioids were easily available, compared with more than 54.2% in 2010.
“Intriguingly, when they go off to college or go to work, you see the highest rates of opioid use among 18 to 24 years of age. So there is a big gap between the patterns of consumptions of opioids in teenagers and then when they go into young adulthood,” Volkow said.
She added that the difficulty youths face in accessing opioid drugs could explain this stark difference in use between teenagers and young adults.
“I think many of the campaigns that are trying to make it harder to get access to prescription opioids have had an effect,” Volkow said.
“This has been decreasing the number of prescription opioids given in our country, of the number of tablets given, and as a result of that, there are less tablets in parents’ cabinets, and they are actually harder to get even in the black market,” she said.
“Also, perhaps educational campaigns about the high risk of overdoses that are associated with the use of these substances, and the high risk of addiction to these substances, all of these factors may have had a positive impact (on) teenagers.”
NPR on 12/18/2018 by Ayesha Rascoe
A bipartisan bill aimed at overhauling federal prisons and reducing recidivism has been overwhelmingly approved by Congress.
The legislation is now on the verge of becoming law, with the House’s approval on Thursday, the Senate’s passage on Tuesday and the backing of President Trump.
Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan previously voiced support for the legislative package, pledging that the House was “ready to get it done.” They later passed the measure by a 358-36 margin.
The Senate on Tuesday voted 87-12 in favor of the bill, known as the First Step Act. The passage of the bill by the chamber is a significant victory for advocates on the left and the right, who have pressed for Congress to take action to lower the prison population.
It’s also a big win for the White House and for Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, in particular. Kushner has made overhauling the criminal justice system one of his top projects in the White House.
Trump called Congress’ action a “great bi-partisan achievement” and “a wonderful thing for the U.S.A.!!” in a tweet on Thursday afternoon.
For months, the fate of the legislation seemed to be in a precarious position. Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, who helms the Senate Judiciary Committee, stressed that he wanted to include sentencing provisions, which had been left out of the version of the bill passed by the House in May.
For a while, it was unclear whether Trump would back measures to cut down on lengthy sentences. His first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, was staunchly opposed to the move.
But, with Sessions pushed out of the administration in November, Trump came out in favor of the more expansive Senate package.
Some Republicans, like Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, still oppose the legislation, which they argue will free dangerous criminals.
Facing pressure from advocates and the White House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed to bring the bill up for a vote during the lame-duck session after its sponsors agreed to certain changes.
Here are some highlights from the legislation:
Measures focused on changing U.S. prisons
-Provides more access to rehabilitation and training programs that are aimed at helping prepare prisoners for life after their release. Certain prisoners would be eligible for incentives if they participate, including credits that would allow them to spend up to a year of their sentences in facilities like halfway houses or at home under supervision.
Republican critics of these incentives argue that prisoners could commit crimes while on supervised release. But, the bill’s sponsors say only offenders considered low or minimum risk would be eligible and the legislation excludes certain prisoners, including sex offenders and fentanyl traffickers.
-Makes it against the law to use restraints on pregnant inmates, unless they are an immediate threat to themselves or others or a flight risk.
-Requires that prisoners be incarcerated no more than 500 miles from their primary residence.
Measures focused on sentencing
-Ends automatic life sentences under the three-strike penalty for drug felonies. Instead of life, a third strike would now be a mandatory 25-year sentence. The mandatory sentence for a second offense would be reduced to 15 years compared to 20 years now.
This change would not be retroactive, so it would not help people already in prison serving life sentences under the three-strike rule. Some opponents of the bill have argued it does not go far enough to help people already affected by these laws.
-Expands the “safety valve” that allows judges to avoid imposing mandatory minimum sentences in certain cases.
-Addresses prisoners who were sentenced before laws were changed in 2010 to lessen disparities between the penalties for crack cocaine and powder cocaine. It would allow these prisoners to petition the courts to review their cases in light of the updated law.