5 Important Facts About the SAFE Act

The Safe, Accountable, Fair and Effective Justice Act, or the SAFE Justice Act, is a bill designed to apply successful corrections system practices from leading states to the federal government. Officially known as H.R.2944, the bill uses evidence-based research to promote corrections and legal system reform.

A Quick History

Congress has steadily expanded the size and scope of the federal criminal code since the 1980’s. During this time, the federal prison population has explored and caused serious strains on federal finances and resources. Since the 1980’s, the federal government added approximately 2,000 new crimes to the criminal code. The federal imprisonment rate has grown by 500 percent and annual spending on the federal prison system increased almost 600 percent. During the 1980’s, the federal prison system cost around $970 million to operate, but today costs billions of dollars. Similarly, most states recorded drastic imprisonment and cost increases over the past 30 years. However, most states have reduced their prison rates through comprehensive efforts to protect public safety, contain costs and prevent recidivism.

SAFE Act Overview

The SAFE Justice Act promotes justice system reform through addressing problems related to the excessive federalization of criminal laws. The SAFE Justice Act implements sentencing reforms by creating secondary alternatives and exceptions to mandatory federal minimums. This protects low-level or nonviolent offenders with limited criminal history and provides new eligibility for future resentencing. There are legal provisions designed to minimize repeat offender rates by requiring the creation of official risk reduction programs. These could be education work training, drug counseling and mental health treatment programs. The SAFE Justice Act mandates risk assessments of eligible offenders after their sentencing to allow them to earn credits for completion of assigned risk reduction programs.

Criminalization Control

The SAFE Justice Act helps to control over-criminalization by requiring public officials to release regulatory criminal offense statistics. It empowers victims of certain over-regulated crime categories to contact the inspector general. It empowers judges to determine how much information from poorly documented law enforcement stings can be used against manipulated and misled criminals. The SAFE Justice Act protects against wrongful convictions, creates simplified procedures for charging criminals and eliminates federal legal penalties for possession of small amounts of certain drugs. Judges are empowered to use evidence-based sentencing alternatives, such as pre-judgment probation for serious offenders and comprehensive probation for lower-level offenders. The act also expands compassionate release for lower-risk, older or terminally-ill adults.

Recidivism Control

The SAFE Justice Act controls recidivism rates by expanding the opportunities for earned time among prison inmates who fully participate in one-on-one case plan management. The act strives to increase probation and post-prison offender success rates by requiring fast and gradual sanctions for violations. Probation offers who are compliant are offered credits through incentive programs that focus on performance. The act requires the creation of mental health support and training programs for prison employees. States are encouraged to create programs for solving drug, veteran and mental health problems within the corrections and post-supervision systems.

Government Accountability

The act helps to reduce recidivism by increasing administration accountability and government transparency. For example, it requires fiscal statements for sentencing and corrections. It requires justice system officials who analyze sentencing costs. The act created a designated position of a non-voting federal defender representative on the U.S. Sentencing Commission. The act requires the calculation of better and more accurate sentence times. Federal agencies are required to publish reports on recidivism rates and corrections populations. Federal leaders are required to develop and share best practices to reduce wrongful convictions, increase prison management savings and strengthen safety tools for law enforcement personnel.

The Safe, Accountable, Fair and Effective Justice Act reduce federal prison sentences, provides sentence credits, decreases recidivism rates and reduces automatic imprisonment for low-level offenders.