The First Step Act is a federal law. Congress passed it and former President Donald Trump signed it in 2018. The First Step Act includes several different parts. But one of the most important parts of the First Step Act is its “time credits” provision.
What are First Step Act time credits?
As its name suggests, the First Step Act’s “time credits” provision allows people in federal prisons to earn time credits. They earn them by participating in “evidence-based recidivism reduction programming” (also known as “EBRR programs”) and “productive activities.”
In exchange for their participation, incarcerated people receive time credits that can shorten their prison sentence. Rather than stay in prison, individuals who complete programs and activities can move to home confinement or a residential reentry center.
This opportunity isn’t available for everyone. In general, the BOP only assigns people with minimal or low PATTERN scores to these programs and activities. As a result, the BOP won’t release any violent offenders or anyone who is likely to commit another crime.
In theory, people can earn quite a bit of time off their sentence in this way. Under the law, they can earn between 10 and 15 days in time credits for every 30 days of participation. Unfortunately, the BOP doesn’t offer as many programs and activities as you would want. But there are still some.
Why do you need to know about them?
It’s important to know about First Step Act time credits in general. But it’s really important right now because Jan. 15, 2022, is only one week away. Jan. 15, 2022, is the date that the BOP has determined it will finally provide time credits to everyone who has participated in First Step Act programs and activities.
For many people in federal prisons, these time credits could shorten, or even end, their time in prison. Hundreds of prisoners have already filed lawsuits claiming that they deserve to be released because of the First Step Act. In almost every case, courts have said wait until Jan. 15, 2022.
The Jan. 15, 2022, is based in part on the law itself. That date is the date that the BOP must be completely done with getting the First Step Act’s time credits up and running. How to Justice and Interrogating Justice have both tried to get the BOP to do it sooner. But, now that the BOP’s own deadline is only one week away, it has no excuses left. But will it?
There is reason to believe that the BOP actually won’t. In the past few weeks, the government started blaming union disputes, COVID-19 and other things for the BOP’s slow start. Like with the #KeepThemHome movement, public pressure is needed to make sure the BOP provides First Step Act time credits, too.
The First Step Act is a federal law that allows prisoners to earn time credits. These time credits can get them out of prison and into home confinement or residential reentry centers sooner. For months, the BOP, DOJ and federal courts have told us that the system will be up and running by Jan. 15, 2022. This is what the law requires.