The federal government is in the middle of passing First Step, a major bi-partisan bill that will change the structure of sentencing guidelines. However, there are also reports that District Attorneys overseeing prosecutions at the local level are already on board with many of the changes. According to a recent article in the New York Times, there is a movement across the country among DAs of varying political backgrounds that are taking a restorative approach to prosecution and sentencing similar to First Step.
How this new approach works
This approach places more of an emphasis on rehabilitation and less on stringent sentencing:
Reducing the sentence: The US has some of the most stringent sentencing guidelines in the world, which comes at high cost to taxpayers. It is also proven that incarceration makes defendant more likely instead of less likely to commit another crime.
Misdemeanors do not involve jail: Those crimes that do not involve serious violence should be classified as misdemeanors that do not include jail time.
More selective about prosecuting cases: These DAs are less likely to clog up the criminal justice system with cases that do not have a strong body of evidence.
Sensible sentencing: Rather than stacking sentences to create leverage in a plea bargain, these prosecutors pursue sentences that reflect the actual crime.
Decriminalizing typical teen behavior: Adolescence involves changes in body chemistry and brain development, so typical teen behavior like fighting in school or other infractions are not criminalized. Teens who stay out of trouble can also have their juvenile records expunged. They avoid trying teens as an adult unless it is a violent crime.
Eliminating cash bail: Many regard cash bail as a way to systemic punish the poor.
Immigrants are not treated differently: Immigrants will often faces more stringent sentencing that can lead to imprisonment and deportation. The threat of severe sentencing may also prevent fellow immigrants coming forward as witnesses or reporting a crime.
Knowledgeable attorneys can help
Since each case is different, there are no guarantees about how it will turn out. So it is always wise to seek the guidance of an experienced criminal defense attorney to work with the DAs to have cases dismissed or involve sensible penalties with rehabilitation.