Since the war on drugs began over 30 years ago, politicians have been at odds over what to do with criminals who have various drug-related charges. Should these people go to jail? If so, for how long? Discussions over the best way to help society, as well as these individuals, is a hotly contested topic. Recently, these issues have only escalated thanks to the First Step Act, which was signed by President Trump just last year.
A bipartisan bill passed in 2018, the First Step Act brought on massive changes to prisons across the country and is considered a prison reform bill. Co-authored by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), this Act made certain important changes in prisons, such as providing female prisoners with feminine hygiene products whenever they may be needed. This Act also intends to free prisoners serving long sentences over drug-related charges, and has already resulted in 1,200 prisoners with drug charges being freed. Another 3,000+ have been released due to good behavior. However, prosecutors have attempted to keep 81 of these prisoners in jail, but have been unsuccessful thus far.
“Unfortunately, it is the prosecutor’s job to make it hard on former prisoners and current inmates seeking to have their drug charges removed or reduced,” says Attorney Patrick Barone of Barone Defense Firm. “The Justice Dept says it is a fairness issue to make sure that all prisoners are treated the same.”
Many African Americans are serving long prison sentences because of selling crack cocaine. One of the goals of this Act is to free some of these prisoners—especially those who have already served several years in prison. One of the prisoners who was set free because of the First Step Act, but who is still having to fight to stay free, is Monae Davis. From Buffalo, New York, David was convicted for selling large amounts of crack cocaine in New York and Pennsylvania and was sentenced in 2009.
Freed on March 7, 2019, Davis, now 44, had six years removed from his 20-year prison sentence thanks to the First Step Act. However, prosecutors claim that the drugs he handled were more than the 50 grams he initially plead guilty to selling. Instead, they said he handled up to 4.5 kg, which makes him unable to qualify for having his sentence reduced. Davis is still fighting the prosecutors who are trying to return him to prison so he can complete his sentence. Prosecutors are planning to appeal Davis’ decision.