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Revised federal prisoner reform bill advances in Senate

The United States has the highest prison population in the world with an estimated 716 people out of every 100,000 people currently in prisons. A new bipartisan bill could reduce the sentences for several thousand federal inmates in Texas and across the country. The bill, known as the "First Step Act," was recently revised and advanced in the Senate.

The bill has the support of President Donald Trump, the ACLU and many Democrat leaders. If it passes, the bill would direct the attorney general to devise a new prisoner assessment system that would evaluate the risks and needs of federal inmates. The bill would grant prisoners credits of time for participating in activities such as training, work or education while in prison. Those who participate in the program would be allowed to receive a reduced prison sentence.

The revised bill requires minimum prison sentences before inmates can participate in the program and excludes some prisoners, such as those convicted of violent crimes. Supporters of the bill hope that it will prepare inmates for life outside of prison and prevent released inmates from later re-entering the prison system. The bill only applies to federal inmates. There are currently 181,000 people serving sentences in federal prisons across the country.

In the United States, people who are convicted of crimes have the right of presumed innocence until they are proven guilty in a court of law. Sometimes law enforcement officers and prosecutors may try to push an individual into an admission of guilt using illegal tactics. Criminal defense lawyers may help accused individuals ensure that they are treated fairly and aren't denied any of their Constitutional rights during the court process. In this case, a lawyer might be able to show the court that a federal prisoner should be allowed an early release under the First Step Act due to good behavior and time credits earned while in prison.

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