A memorandum sent Thursday to federal prisoners states: The First Step Act (FSA) has been one of the most comprehensive parts of criminal justice reform in decades. The law, signed into law by President Donald Trump in December 2018, allowed eligible inmates to obtain loans for early release from prison to individuals at unlikely risk of reoffending and low or minimal security. These credits were to be earned by inmates who participated in certain needs-based education programs and were actively involved in productive activities such as prison employment. For every 30 days of successful participation, the inmate could receive up to 15 days of their sentence up to a maximum of 12 months (365 days). That`s what the law says, but the BOP added a new fold stipulating that those with short prison sentences, who also have more minimal or lower security, are not granted early release. On 13 January 2022, the release of thousands of prisoners from reintegration centres (RRCs) and those who were under house arrest on 13 January 2022 began. In one week, the population of the CRR was reduced by more than 4,000 people and the number of house arrests by more than 3,000. Prior to this memorandum, even the BOP had argued that there was no limit to when FSA loans would cease to accumulate for early release from BOP custody. In Robert Stewart v.
Warden of FCI Talladega (Northern District of Alabama, Case No.: 1:22-cv-00294), Stewart, an inmate at Talladega minimum security camp, said the BOP miscalculated FSA loans and should have reduced his sentence by 21 months. In this case, a balance of payments expert (Susan Giddings of the Central Balance of Payments Office) provided a calculation of the FSA loans Stewart had earned 15 days a month, which was consistent with the FSA`s Federal Register Final Rule. The judge ordered the BOP, which did not have the automatic calculation tool at the time, to manually recalculate Stewart`s FSA credits every 60 days to ensure he was getting everything he was entitled to under the law. On July 22, 2022, Stewart was released from BOP custody after earning 165 days of FSA credits used to shorten his prison sentence. For federal prisoners detained today, as a result of this latest BOP memorandum, they do not receive loans from the FSA to reduce their sentences. This is unfair, arbitrary, and beyond the intent Congress had when it passed the law. California Governor Gavin Newsom (pictured) signed a bill granting death row inmates exemptions from death sentences imposed “on the basis of race, ethnicity, or national origin.” With this more restrictive condition, the BOP even violates the FSA`s Department of Justice`s intent to “transfer eligible inmates who meet the criteria of 3624(g) [FSA credits] to supervised release where possible, rather than prior to release [midway and home detention].” The internal memorandum sent to state prisoners with “immigration problems” would not be eligible. One person who left the BOP said of the memorandum: “BOP creates its own language and leaves discretion to case managers to interpret who is eligible and who is not. They completely ignored the intent and laws of the FSA. As a result, these prisoners sentenced to short prison terms will not benefit from a reduced sentence, which clearly goes against the BOP`s own experts for the FSA.
There are already so many requirements that exclude even minimum security and low security occupants from eligibility. There are a total of 68 offences that prevent prisoners from applying FSA credits to reduce their sentence. Non-U.S. citizens are not eligible. Offenders in the District of Columbia are not eligible, as are offenders who do not have supervised release. According to the Department of Justice, approximately 65,000 of the 131,386 federal prisoners would not be eligible to earn FSA time credits under the FSA solely because of the inmate`s crime of conviction (as of August 27, 2020). This new 18-month requirement will further limit who is eligible for early publication. “When we passed the Racial Justice Act, we did so with a promise not to leave those who had already been convicted and sentenced to explicit and implicit criminal penalties in systemic racial bias in our courts,” said MP Ash Kalra, sponsor of the bill. “There is still much work to be done, but now AB 256 will be a valuable tool to meaningfully address glaring racial differences in our history of condemnation.” The BOP is known to interpret policies in restrictive ways that could result in the removal of prisoners from their correctional facility. In fact, the BOP`s original interpretation of how prisoners earned FSA loans was so cumbersome and restrictive that almost no one would have noticed a reduction in their sentences.
Commenting on the BOP`s early interpretation of the type of participation required to earn credits, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) said, “. does not appear to be a good-faith attempt to respect the intentions of Congress. It is clear that Congress wanted fewer minimum-security prisoners in prison. Thursday, 8. In September 2022, federal prisoners across the country were eagerly awaiting the announcement of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) automatic calculation of First Step Act credits. For many low- and minimum-security inmates, the announcement was made with a bang. If a federal prisoner is convicted, he or she receives 54 days of good behaviour once in federal custody. For a person sentenced to 21 months in prison, this means that 94 days of good behaviour (54 days for 12 months, then a proportional annual amount of 54 days for the other 9 months) are immediately deducted from their sentence.