Articles Posted in FIRST STEP Act

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elderly-prisonAs I wrote about here, through the FIRST STEP Act Congress revitalized and expanded the Bureau of Prisons’ pilot program for transferring “elderly” inmates to home confinement earlier than their younger cohorts. In response to the Act, the BOP issued an operations memorandum setting out eligibility criteria (as well as for home confinement transfers for the “terminally ill”). In short, a prisoner must be at least 60 years old; have served two-thirds of the term of imprisonment; have no history of escapes; and not have been convicted of a crime of violence, a sex offense, or one of a laundry list of similar, excludable offenses.

Yesterday, after presenting to the PACDL White Collar Seminar on the FIRST STEP Act, an attorney approached me regarding an institution’s inertia in processing an elderly prisoner to home confinement; despite repeated inquires and advocacy, there had been no movement in confirming transfer on the fast-approaching eligibility date. Likewise, in speaking with Joel Sickler (with whom I worked 20+ years ago), he relayed a recent situation where an institution took the position than an elderly inmate sentenced to six months’ imprisonment could not be considered for transfer to home confinement after four months (2/3s) because of the length of sentence. In both instances, calls to the local BOP Consolidated Legal Center (CLC) resulted in a prompt resolution, that is, an announcement that the individuals were to be transferred to home confinement consistent with their respective eligibility dates.

The purpose of this post then is to suggest attorneys facing institutional pushback and/or inattention contact the appropriate CLC or, if necessary, Regional Counsel to ensure that otherwise eligible clients are timely transferred to home confinement. CLC contact information can be found in Appendix B to the BOP’s Legal Resource Guide.

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As discussed in this article, through the FIRST STEP Act Congress promulgated a mechanism by which prisoners will eventually be able to achieve both earlier pre-release transfers and placement on supervised release (i.e., reduction in sentence). Central to this initiative is development of a risk and needs assessment system. Yesterday, DOJ issued the Prisoner Assessment Tool Targeting Estimated Risk and Needs (“PATTERN”). Consistent with this press release, there is now a “45-day public study period” of PATTERN during which the public can submit comments to FirstStepAct@ojp.usdoj.gov.

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As discussed in this article, the FIRST STEP Act gave effect to Congress’s intent that federal prisoners be eligible to earn good time credit amounting to 15 percent of the sentence imposed (54 days per year). Unfortunately, because the way the law was written, implementation of this change was delayed 210 days, until this past Friday. Not only has the (belated) change resulted in retroactive modification of prisoners’ projected release dates, as can be found via the Inmate Locator, but also approximately 3,100 prisoners were discharged immediately.