Explainer: BOP Program Statement on FSA Time Credits

Explainer: BOP Program Statement on FSA Time Credits

On Friday, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) published a Program Statement on First Step Act (FSA) Time Credits that clarifies several of the main issues causing confusion among those in BOP custody, their loved ones and even BOP staff.

The BOP’s press release announcing the new rule highlights three major policy changes:

  • “First, inmates will soon be able to see all potential Federal Time Credits (FTCs) they may earn over the course of their sentence at their first Unit Team meeting.”
  • “Second, inmates will be able to earn credit while in administrative detention if they continue participating in available programming opportunities provided to them.”
  • “Finally, inmates will be able to continue earning credit while in the community, so long as they continue to successfully comply with all the rules and procedures of pre-release custody.”

In essence, the BOP is announcing that it will estimate the amount of FSA Time Credits someone can earn at the beginning of his or her sentence just like they usually do for Good Time Credits. In addition, the BOP is announcing that it will permit incarcerated people to continue earning FSA Time Credits while in administrative detention and while placed in the community.

All of these updates are good news. But the BOP’s Program Statement on FSA Time Credits also included several other updates that benefit incarcerated people and their loved ones.

Image courtesy of Federal Bureau of Prisons via Wikimedia Commons.

The BOP clarified specific criteria an incarcerated person must meet to earn FSA Time Credits.

One of the most important parts of the BOP’s Program Statement is that the agency made it crystal clear what the requirements are to be eligible for a full year’s worth of FSA Time Credits.

“For inmates who meet the following criteria,” the Program Statement reads, “up to 365 days of earned FTCs will be automatically applied to early release….” Then the BOP lists five criteria”:

  • “Has a term of supervised release to follow the term of incarceration,”
  • “Has a low or minimum PATTERN risk level,”
  • “Has maintained a low or minimum PATTERN risk level for at least two consecutive assessments conducted during regularly scheduled Program Reviews,”
  • “Has no detailers or unresolved pending charges, to include unresolved immigration status and”
  • “Has not opted out or refused to participate in any required program, and therefore, is in earning status.”

As long as you meet these five requirements, the BOP will estimate your early release date based on the application of FSA Time Credits and automatically apply those Time Credits so long as you actually earn them. In other words, “the Bureau will calculate an inmate’s PRD by assuming that an inmate will remain in earning status throughout his or her sentence, including while in prerelease custody.”

Image courtesy of FooTToo via iStock by Getty Images.

The BOP also clarified how RDAP early release and FSA Time Credits will work together.

In addition to clarifying who is eligible for FSA Time Credits, the BOP’s Program Statement also makes it clear that federal prisoners can take advantage of both FSA Time Credits and Early Release for participation in the Residential Drug Abuse Treatment Program.

“Inmates who successfully complete the Residential Drug Abuse Treatment Program (RDAP) and are eligible for early release pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3621(e) may also earn FTCs which could be applied towards an additional reduction to their Project Release Date (PRD),” the Program Statement explains.

The only catch is that “[a]n inmate must complete all requirement components of RDAP, including the community-based treatment component, in order to receive the early release benefit pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3621(e).” Then “[t]he 3621(e) benefit will applied first to the inmate’s sentence computation, followed by the application of FTCs….”

The Takeaway:

The BOP’s new Program Statement on FSA Time Credits helps clarify how the BOP calculates and applies FSA Time Credits. It also cleans up confusion over several other issues, including how Early Release based on participation in RDAP interacts with the earning of FSA Time Credits.

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