Yes. Under a federal law called the First Step Act, people in Bureau of Prisons custody can earn incentives for participating in rehabilitation programs and productive activities. The BOP has taken more than year to get the First Step Act time credits system up and running. But today is the deadline for that process to be over. So, as of today, the BOP is required by law to provide First Step Act time credits.
How do First Step Act time credits work in BOP facilities?
The First Step Act time credits system is as simple as it is important. People in BOP custody can earn time off their sentence in exchange for their participation in evidence-based recidivism reduction programming (also called “EBRR programs”) and productive activities. Federal law defines both of these terms in a very broad way. So, in theory, lots of programs and activities should count.
For every 30 days of programs and activities you complete, you earn 10, and sometimes even 15, “time credits.” These credits get you out of prison and into home confinement or a residential reentry center sooner. These time credits are sort of like “good time” in prison. For good time, if you have good behavior, you can get out sooner. For First Step Act time credits, if you complete programs and activities, you can get out sooner, too.
Will the BOP actually provide First Step Act time credits today?
Hopefully. While First Step Act time credits are simple, the BOP’s approach to them has not been. Under the law, the BOP had until Jan. 15, 2022, to get time credits up and running. Rather than roll out time credits over the past two (or more) years, the BOP decided to wait until the very last minute. Now, the BOP has to provide all of the time credits to those who have earned them this Saturday.
Our hope is that the BOP does exactly that. Kevin Ring, the President of FAMM, was optimistic earlier in the week. “The wait is almost over, finally,” he said on Twitter. We aren’t as optimistic. Even in court decisions this week, the Department of Justice argued that the BOP still doesn’t have to provide any incentives to people who have earned them.
If the BOP provides First Step Act time credits like it, the DOJ and federal courts have said it would, hundreds and maybe even thousands of people should be released on Saturday. This gives those people a chance to see their families and start contributing to their communities. And, over the course of a few months, it saves taxpayers millions of dollars. In this sense, it really is a win for everyone.
On Saturday, the BOP must provide First Step Act time credits those everyone who have earned them over the past two (or more) years. When those time credits are provided, hundreds and maybe even thousands of people in BOP custody will be eligible for immediate release. It’s too soon to know if the BOP will do what it’s supposed to do.