(CBS) — Freedom came Friday for more than 3,000 people. They were released from prisons and halfway houses across the country under the First Step Act signed into law by the president last year.
For non-violent drug offenders like Norah Yahya, the new law is a new beginning, allowing some prisoners like her to be released early.
“It was just unreal to me, I was ecstatic about it,” Yahya said.
She was 22 the first time she was sent to prison for her role in a marijuana-dealing operation. Her daughter was just five years old.
“It was very challenging, and a lot of the programs at that time weren’t geared toward release,” Yahya said.
After she served her sentence, she went to college and got a job. Then, just two years later, she relapsed and was sent back to prison for selling crack and powder cocaine.
“I just fell right back into the same stream of choices. I wanted to be released, but I had no preparations upon release,” Yahya said.
The new law is also designed to help inmates transition back into society and the largest group of released inmates are drug offenders. After spending 18 years of her life in prison, Yahya said she was to do better.
“I want to live,” she said.
The new law aims to address racial disparities in the system and give judges more discretion in sentencing. Still, advocates stress inmates need more resources to help them transition back into society.