Articles Posted in Second Chace Act

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In 2002, the Bureau of Prisons, in response to an opinion by the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel, changed its halfway house policy, limiting placements to the final 10% of a prisoner’s sentence. As discussed here, this was a dramatic shift from the agency’s historic practices, which placed certain nonviolent offenders serving short sentences directly into halfway houses and made use of these prison facilities on the back-end of sentences to effectuate successful community re-integration. Following years of litigation, the Second Chance Act served to end the Bureau’s unlawful policy change, and, during the Obama administration, the Bureau began to make broader use of pre-release options, that is, both halfway houses and home confinement. (See here p. 38).

Over the last two years, there has been a growing body of anecdotal evidence that the Bureau has renewed efforts to restrict pre-release placements. Today, Justin George at The Marshal Project has published an excellent piece detailing the tensions between the President’s claimed interest in prison reform and the Attorney General’s interest in more severe penalties for criminal offenders:

Under the Obama administration, the number of federal prisoners in halfway houses and other transitional programs boomed. The federal government required the privately-run residences to provide mental health and substance abuse treatment, and the Department of Justice also increased access to ankle monitors so more prisoners could finish sentences in their own homes.

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In February, the General Accounting Office (GAO) issued a report, Bureau of Prisons: Eligibility and Capacity Impact Use of Flexibilities to Reduce Inmates’ Time in Prison, in response to a request that it address “(1) the extent to which BOP utilizes its authorities to reduce a federal prisoner’s period of incarceration; and (2) what factors, if any, impact BOP’s use of these authorities.” In April, the Federal Public and Community Defenders issued a reportanalyzing the GAO’s findings.


Last Friday, the GAO posted a letter and accompanying briefing prepared in response to further Congressional inquiry concerning “methods for estimating costs of housing inmates in BOP facilities, Residential Re-entry Centers (RRC), and home detention, as well as the evaluation of and results of the Elderly Offender Pilot Program (the Pilot) and any cost savings to the federal government.” Among other things, the GAO offers:

   The Bureau of Prisons underreports the cost of incarcerating prisoners at standard prison facilities (i.e., FPCs, FCIs, USPs) by not factoring in “construction of new prisons, modernization and repair (M&R) projects costing over $10,000, or depreciation of its existing facilities.”
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Continuing with the theme of the Bureau of Prisons’ seeming disregard for prisoners’ proximity to family and loved ones, as well as the ongoing problem of overcrowding, is this New York Times editorial concerning the new women’s facility in Aliceville, Alabama.

But for many of the prisoners, the rural isolation of this expensive facility will hurt their chances of returning permanently to their families and communities after doing their time. Though it is the newest federal prison for women, Aliceville does not reflect the latest thinking about criminal justice policy for incarceration of women.
Experts have long argued that prisoners should be located within a reasonable distance of their families so they can keep connections with their children. Encouraging those connections benefits the criminal justice system by reducing the odds that a prisoner will end up back in prison after she is released. The location of the Aliceville prison works against these goals.[…]