BOP Posts (Another) New Policy on First Step Act Credits

Almost four years after the First Step Act was enacted in December 2018, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has finally adopted a formal policy on how to implement this law passed by Congress that could potentially shorten the sentences of most BOP prisoners.

In usual BOP style, the policy is long and complex — but it’s worth a read. It’s important because it clears up some of the rumors that prisoners couldn’t get retroactive credits under the First Step Act (they can), along with some other clarifications on how prisoners can qualify to earn time off their sentences for taking certain programs.

Listed below is the new policy titled “First Step Act of 2018 – Time Credits:
Procedures for Implementation of 18 U.S.C. § 3632(d)(4),” under Program Statement 5410.01 (Nov. 18, 2022), and signed by the BOP’s new director, Colette S. Peters.

Free Power of Attorney Forms for Prisoners

If you need a power of attorney form, you don’t have to pay for them. Here’s a durable power of attorney form for Florida, and a revocation form when the time comes to end the power of attorney. I also included a generic power of attorney form that may be used in other states.

Florida Durable Power of Attorney Form:

Florida Revocation of Power of Attorney Form:

Generic Durable Power of Attorney Form:

I assume no responsibility for these forms. I found them online and figured I woulf make them available to prisoners and their families who often ask me about power of attorney forms (usually in Florida, one of the states that prides itself on incarcerating most of its residents). If you see a problem withe the form, let me know and I will remove it. If this is helpful, I might add an entire section of forms for all the states. Let me know!

Dale

Is the BOP Sending People in Halfway Houses Back to Prison?

Is the BOP sending people in halfway houses back to prison because of calculation error in time credits awarded to prisoner for taking certain programs? Not right now. While the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) continues to make a disastrous mess of the First Step Act enacted by Congress in 2018 to help get non-violent offenders out of federal prison, the BOP has done all it can to keep its prisons full and staff earning their fat paychecks. Here’s another underhanded move by the BOP to do just that.

People released from federal prison recently and placed in a halfway house (or “Residential Re-Entry Center,” as the BOP likes to call it), were told by BOP and halfway house staff that they will be going back to prison because the BOP — yet again — changed its rules on how it calculates credit for extra time off for taking certain programs (often called FSA credits).

This freaked a lot of people out and former prisoners and their families inundated the BOP with phone calls to voice their fear of what negative impacts this would have. Apparently the BOP got sick of the phone calls and amended its rule to say that anyone in a halfway house or designated to one in the last two months would not be going back to, or staying in, prison.

December 18th will mark four years since Congress told the BOP to start implementing the First Step Act’s time credits and other features. To date, the BOP has dragged its feet so much that it seems this important Act by Congress won’t ever be fully implemented. Thankfully, action on the part of former prisoners and their families at least swayed the BOP to back down on its efforts to refill federal prisons and keep the federal payroll flowing.

Here’s the actual BOP memo handed out on October 14, 2022, regarding this change in calculating First Step Act time credits and how it affects those already in federal halfway houses and RRCs:

Squandering the Opportunity

Today I walked into my office in a fancy high-rise office building in the city and said, “Alright! Another opportunity to make an impact.” And then I found myself sinking into the same old routine, simply winding through another day.

But why do I do this? Why do I squander the day doing things that won’t make a difference “at the end of the day,” as they say. If I really get honest with myself, it’s because making a meaningful impact requires taking risks. I’m not a big risk-taker these days!

If I can offer anyone leaving prison some advice, it’s don’t be afraid to take some risks. Being safe and secure makes us feel good, but it’s such an obstacle to becoming successful — however you might define that word.

There’s lots of “good” things out here, but don’t let the good get in the way of what’s better.

BOP Updates its Abortion Policy to Exclude Requirement that Staff Follow State Laws

The Federal Bureau of Prisons has revised its abortion policy and removed the language in it that had required staff to adhere to state laws when arranging an abortion for a pregnant prisoner. Was this done in response to the Supreme Court overturning Roe v Wade last month? I`d say that`s a good assumption.

In my post on June 25, I posed the question whether the BOP would change its abortion policy for pregnant prisoners in light of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v Wade. I pointed out that the policy doesn`t require BOP staff to follow state law in arranging for an abortion, only that they should be “guided” by state law. I said that only if the BOP decides to ignore the laws of states banning abortion will pregnant prisoners be able to get an abortion in BOP custody.

Well, on July 8, the BOP updated its policy, titled “Female Offender Manual,” to delete the language requiring staff to refer to state abortion laws. That language had read: “Staff shall have knowledge of, and shall be guided by, applicable federal and state laws and regulations.” It`s now removed, leaving just this directive in the policy:

The Regional Counsel shall be consulted if there are questions concerning the interpretation of laws and regulations.

The BOP also left intact that it would still pay all costs for an abortion that was the result of rape or incest. See 5200.07, sec 7(c).

It seems the BOP is still on-board with arranging abortions for pregnant prisoners, regardless of whether state law where the prisoner is held bans them.

Dale Chappell is the author of hundreds of published articles on the federal criminal justice system, and the Insider`s Guide series of federal post-conviction books. Follow his blog at www.zenlawguy.com and on Twitter at @zenlawguy.

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