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NACDL and its members have long pressed to fix the unjustly severe federal sentencing regime, advocating for much more sweeping changes than are included in the First Step Act. Although the law does not go nearly as far as NACDL would like, it will benefit many inmates and has important implications for practitioners.
Relevant Provisions of the First Step Act
for Federal Criminal Law Practitioners:
Risk and Needs Assessment System/Earned Time Credits (Title I) Good Time Credit Updates (Title I, Section 102) Sentencing Reform Provisions Under the First Step Act (Title IV) Compassionate Release (Title VI, Section 603)
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In these members-only webinars, leading experts examine the intricacies of the First Step Act from sentencing implications and risk assessments to expanded mechanisms for early release.
Available to the public: Everything You Wanted To Know About Federal Compassionate Release (But Didn’t Know To Ask)
Watch the most recent webinar: PATTERN – The First Step Act's Evolving Risk Assessment Tool
Contact First Step Act Resource Center Counsel & Project Director Beth Blackwood for questions or support.
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Pre-Trial Suppression & Fourth Amendment Issues
This Trial Guide is a topical and practical handbook examining the nuts and bolts of the most current Fourth Amendment & Pre-Trial Suppression issues encountered in modern criminal cases.
Defense Counsel Playbook for Eyewitness ID Cases
This Trial Guide was written to help counsel use existing case law to its strongest advantage, and to create a framework for appellate challenges urging courts to adopt leading cases.
Ultimate Cross 2.0
This special CLE compilation program includes the highest-rated presentations on Cross-Examination techniques from NACDL's most recent seminars (2017-2019).
Forensic Sciences in Criminal Cases: A Multidiscipline Primer
In order to challenge forensic evidence, experts, reports and findings commonly encountered in the courtroom, an attorney must first have a basic understanding of the forensic issues that they will be confronting.
Advocacy Supporting Implementation of the FIRST Step Act
- Coalition Letter to Judiciary Committees on Equal Access to Compassionate Release (April 2020)
- Coalition Letter to Congressional Leadership on Elderly Home Detention in COVID-19 Aid (March 2020)
Coalition Letter to Senate Leadership on Elderly Home Detention in Light of COVID-19 (March 2020)
Coalition letter to Senate and Senate Judiciary leadership regarding a technical fix to the Elderly Home Detention Pilot Program of the First Step Act addressed in the proposed H.R. 4018 (2019), already passed the House, especially given the current health concerns of COVID-19 expected for this population.
- Letter to House Leadership on Home Confinement for Eligible Elderly Federal Prisoners (October 2019)
Statement to House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime on Implementing the First Step Act (October 2019)
NACDL Executive Director Norman Reimer's written statement to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security regarding implementation of the First Step Act of 2018 (S. 756). Accompanied by NACDL's FOIA request to the Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs regarding the risk and needs assessment tool DOJ will create for such implementation.
- Comments on DOJ First Step Act Implementation Tools (September 2019)
- Letter to Attorney General Barr on FIRST Step Act Implementation (March 2019)
- Compassionate Release: NACDL and Partners Launch the COVID-19 Compassionate Release Clearinghouse
- From the President: Compassionate Release: The Nuts and Bolts
A Basic Risk Assessment Toolbox: Aiming for Adequate Lawyering During the Spread of Risk Assessments
Risk assessment – the assessment of risk of reoffending or risk of future violent behavior – is a hot topic. However, only rarely do lawyers address the questions raised by criminal justice-related risk assessment. This finding suggests that defense lawyers may not be paying enough attention to the issue. A key issue involves addressing how the risk assessment connects the dots between a specific client’s circumstances and the factors related to reoffending and violence.
What the First Step Act Means for Federal Prisoners
The FIRST STEP Act directly impacts accused and sentenced prisoners in myriad ways. Defense attorney Todd Bussert discusses Bureau of Prisons-related aspects of the law, including changes to the time credit calculus, avenues by which prisoners can earn both earlier pre-release transfers and placement on supervised release, and avenues to petition courts for reductions in sentence for extraordinary and compelling reasons. Bussert points out that implementation of some of the Act’s provisions may be delayed.
News Release ~ 04/06/2020
FAMM, Washington Lawyers’ Committee, NACDL Launch Emergency Compassionate Release Effort-- In a massive pro bono effort, our groups are recruiting, training, and supporting lawyers who agree to represent individuals in federal prisons eligible for compassionate release and those at special risk due to COVID-19.
News Release ~ 12/19/2019
Nation’s Criminal Defense Bar and Charles Koch Foundation Mark the One-Year Anniversary of the First Step Act with the NACDL First Step Act Resource Center -- Washington, DC (Dec. 19, 2019) – Saturday, December 21, marks the one-year anniversary of the signing into law of the First Step Act, a landmark bipartisan criminal justice reform measure. The Act was passed as a first step toward addressing the problems related to overcriminalization and overincarceration in the federal criminal justice system.
News Release ~ 09/11/2019
NACDL Voices Concerns about DOJ’s First Step Act Risk and Needs Assessment System -- Washington, DC (Sept. 11, 2019) – Yesterday, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) President Nina J. Ginsberg submitted to U.S. Attorney General William Barr NACDL’s comments on the Department of Justice’s First Step Act Risk and Needs Assessment System – PATTERN – published in July.
News Release ~ 06/19/2019
FAMM, Washington Lawyers’ Committee, NACDL Launch Compassionate Release Clearinghouse -- Washington, DC (June 19, 2019) – Thousands of sick, dying, and elderly federal prisoners who are eligible for early release will now have access to free legal representation in court through the newly established Compassionate Release Clearinghouse.
News Release ~ 12/20/2018
Congress Passes First Step Act; a Move in Right Direction for Federal Criminal Justice Reform - Washington, DC (Dec. 20, 2018) – Today, Congress passed the First Step Act and it is expected that the president will sign the bill into law in the coming days. NACDL and its members have long pressed to fix the unjustly severe federal sentencing regime, advocating for much more sweeping changes than are included in the First Step Act.