Next Steps in Federal Corrections Reform

Second Chance Act
Urban logoAdvocates and legislators across the political spectrum celebrated the passage of the First Step Act in December of 2018, the first large federal prison reform bill in nearly a decade. This research brief from the Urban Institute reviews key measures in First Step, describes the actions and oversight needed for faithful and vigorous implementation of the act, and highlights some of the law’s limitations.

Working from the original set of recommendations made by the Charles Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections, the report then describes additional measures that represent the next logical—and evidence-based—steps in federal corrections reform. These steps include expanding eligibility for earned time credits, making all sentencing provisions retroactive, further reducing mandatory minimum penalties, and creating a second-look provision for people serving extremely long sentences to petition the court for sentence reductions.