But what has become a decades-long routine for Nolan behind the barbed wire, steel gates and concrete walls of FCI Edgefield, a prison in rural
The measure, known as the First Step Act, gives judges more discretion when sentencing some drug offenders, eases mandatory minimum sentences and encourages inmates to participate in programs designed to reduce the risk of recidivism, with credits that can be used to gain an earlier release.
On a visit this past week to
Barr’s visit signaled a major policy shift since his first stint as attorney general in the early 1990s, when he exuded a tough-on-crime approach, advocating for more severe penalties, building more prisons and using laws to keep some criminals behind bars longer. Barr has said he will fully support and carry out the law.
Trump has touted the overhaul as a rare bipartisan effort to address concerns that too many Americans were imprisoned for nonviolent crimes as a result of the drug war. The president’s son-in-law,
In the culinary skills class at
“It’s delicious,” the attorney general said, as he chomped down.
During a tour that lasted nearly three hours, Barr also met with a prison psychologist, inmates who act as mentors in faith and drug-treatment programs, and with instructors who help prisoners create resumes and participate in job fairs. Passing through the narrow hallways, Barr peeked through the windows of some classrooms where inmates were completing computer skills and GED programs. In one room, where older computers and typewriters lined the walls, Barr chatted about re-entry programs and heard from mentors who teach their fellow inmates how to prepare for the job interviews.
But some of the prison’s programs — like the culinary arts and auto repair programs — tend to be very popular among inmates and have wait lists. As he walked through
“We’re focusing on building on the programs, the re-entry programs we need, and getting the funding to do it,” Barr said in an interview this past week with The Associated Press.
For inmates like Nolan, who was first sentenced in 1994 to life behind bars before it was reduced to more than 30 years, the First Step Act is a welcome reform. He’s set to be released Friday after serving about 85% of his sentence.
“I made the mistake of getting into drugs,” Nolan told Barr and the state’s two senators,
Barr said the
“I’m impressed with how it’s going,” Barr said of the First Step Act’s implementation. “While there are a few things I probably would have done a little bit different, I generally support the thrust of the First Step Act.”
Under the resentencing provisions of the law, more than 1,600 inmates have qualified for a reduced sentence and more than 1,100 have already been released, a
Advocates have called for stronger oversight of the implementation by both the
“We have concerns it might not be implemented appropriately,” said Inimai Chettiar, legislative and policy director at the Justice Action Network.
“The sentencing provisions are things that are much more clear cut,” she said. “The people who are already put in prison and are trying to get out by participating in programs, those programs also need to be funded too. If there’s no funding it is going to severely limit the ability for the federal government to reduce their prison population.”