WASHINGTON – Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) issued the following statement after meeting Matthew Charles, the first prisoner released due to passage of the First Step Act:
“It was truly an honor to meet Matthew Charles today,” Sen. Lee said. “Here is a man who served his debt to society, turned his life around, and is already contributing to his family and community. There is still more we can do to make sure our criminal justice system is as fair and humane as possible, and success stories like Mr. Charles will make further reform possible.”
“There is more reform that is needed,” Mr. Charles said during the half hour meeting. “This is a starting point but it is a good starting point. It is going to shift the atmosphere of federal prisons just by the First Step Act being passed.”
Matthew Charles was sentenced to 35 years for selling 216 grams of crack in 1996. While in prison he completed 30 Bible correspondence courses, taught GED classes, and helped fellow inmates with their cases. He was released in 2016 after a judge determined he qualified for a sentence reduction under the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act.
Since being released, Mr. Charles has been a model member of the community, finding an apartment to live in and continuing to volunteer at the food pantry he was assigned for parole even after he didn’t have to. He reconnected with his daughter and grandkids and spent Christmas with them.
But federal prosecutors appealed his release, eventually succeeding in putting Mr. Charles back in prison.
In 2018, Charles was again released by a federal judge citing The First Step Act provisions to eliminating the crack vs. cocaine sentencing discrepancy.