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74 federal inmates from Georgia to be released from prison after good-behavior credit recalculation
Doug Collins 2018
Doug Collins

According to a Department of Justice official, 74 federal inmates sentenced in Georgia were part of a group of more than 3,000 inmates to be released after good behavior time recalculations took effect July 19.

The official said 34 of those 74 inmates were from the Northern District of Georgia, which covers 46 northern Georgia counties including Hall County.

The First Step Act, signed in December by President Donald Trump and sponsored in part by Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, increased the number of good conduct credits to 54 days per year. Previously, the Bureau of Prisons only allowed 47 days.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 85 percent of federal prisoners benefited from the good conduct change in the law.

“Our communities are safer when we do a better job of rehabilitating offenders in our custody and preparing them for a successful transition to life after incarceration,” said Attorney General William Barr in a Department of Justice statement announcing the updates. “The Department is committed to and has been working towards full implementation of the First Step Act, which will help us effectively deploy resources to help reduce risk, recidivism, and crime.”

Multiple attempts to reach Collins’ office for an interview were unsuccessful.

More than 1,100 prisoners had already been released, a Justice Department official said. Around 2,200 more were to be released on July 19 after earning credits.

Collins sponsored H.R. 5682, a form of the “FIRST STEP Act” focusing on recidivism-reducing programs for federal offenders that would ultimately pass as a combination of legislation. The bill was signed by President Donald Trump Dec. 21.

An evidence-based recidivism reduction program was defined as a number of options, including family relationship building and parenting skills, academic classes, mentoring, substance abuse treatment, vocational training, civic engagement and reintegrative community services and trauma counseling.

A prisoner who completes a program could receive time credits of 10 days for every 30 days of successful participation in a program.

“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 (five) days of time credits for every 30 days of successful participation in evidence-based recidivism reduction programming or productive activities,” according to the legislation.

The DOJ also announced last week that 1,691 inmates received sentence reductions under the retroactive application of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010.

The sentence reductions come from the “disparity between crack cocaine and powder cocaine threshold amounts triggering mandatory minimum sentences,” according to the Department of Justice.

“Prior to the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, the crack cocaine weight threshold for a 10-year mandatory minimum to life sentence was 50 grams, and for a five-year mandatory minimum to 40 years in prison was five grams. The Fair Sentencing Act also eliminated the five-year mandatory minimum for simple possession of crack cocaine,” according to Families against Mandatory Minimums.

Those thresholds are now raised to 280 grams for the 10-year sentence and 28 grams for the five-year sentence.

According to a report from the National Institute of Justice using data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 19.7% of federal inmates are not U.S. citizens as compared to the 5.8% non-citizens in state custody.

In federal prisons, 47.3% of inmates were convicted on drug offenses.

The data “indicates that most federal inmates are incarcerated for drug trafficking, weapons charges, and other (meaning non-weapon and non-immigration) public order offenses,” according to the report.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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