Everything You Need To Know About RDAP (Part One)

Everything You Need To Know About RDAP (Part One)

Under federal law, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) can reduce the sentences of nonviolent participants in the Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP) by up to one year. 

RDAP is the only BOP program that allows an actual reduction in a person’s federal sentence. For this reason, RDAP is the most popular and talked-about BOP program. 

This RDAP series answers the questions that prospective participants and their families most frequently ask about the program.

When is RDAP available?

RDAP is a federal program for the benefit of people serving time in federal prisons. Some states provide similar residential drug abuse treatment programs with varying sentence reduction benefits. But the RDAP program offered by the BOP is only for people in federal prison.

The RDAP program consists of 500 hours of treatment under the supervision of drug treatment specialists. The program runs between nine and twelve months to complete.

Federal law, specifically 18 U.S.C. § 3621, directs the BOP to provide residential substance abuse treatment for all eligible federal inmates.

Given the potential sentence reduction benefits those who graduate from RDAP, the program is in high demand. But it’s not easy to qualify for.

What are the three phases of RDAP?

In general, participants have to complete all three phases of RDAP to receive all benefits: the Unit-Based Component, the Post-Graduation Component and the Transitional Drug Abuse Treatment Component.

  • Unit-Based Component. This component is a six- to twelve-month, 500-hour residential program. Participants receive a certificate of completion at the end of this first phase. Typically, they reside together in the same dorm or unit. They spend their days participating in drug program treatment, a prison job and other educational programs. 
  • Post-Graduation Component. This unit is the first part of the post-graduation, after-care requirement. After finishing the unit-based component, graduates often remain in the unit and assist as mentors to new program participants. In some prisons, they are sent back to the general population and participate in the follow-up services offered in prison.
  • Transitional Drug Abuse Treatment (TDAT) Component. TDAT lasts at least four months and occurs at a halfway house or while a person is on home confinement. This is the final part of RDAP and an integral part of RDAP’s after-care requirement.
Image courtesy of California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation via Wikimedia Commons.

When is the RDAP program complete?

A person completes RDAP only after finishing all three phases, the residential unit in the first phase and the two after-care requirements (one in prison post-graduation and one in the community after release). 

Graduates of the first phase receive a “certificate of completion” at the end of the residential unit-based program component. In fact, some facilities will even conduct “graduation” festivities for program participants.

However, from the perspective of the BOP, people do not officially complete RDAP until they go through all three phases. That’s when a “certificate of achievement” gets added to the person’s central file.

There is typically a waitlist to join.

The BOP states that over 50% of the federal population needs some form of substance abuse treatment. Given the high demand for the program and the limited number of slots available, people typically must wait until they are within the last 24 months or so from community release. As their potential community release date gets closer, a person receives more priority for entrance.

If a person commits any disciplinary infractions while waiting for their turn, they may have to wait even longer to enter the program. Most institutions demand that a person remain infraction-free for six months to regain access. 

Image courtesy of Tony Webster via Wikimedia Commons.

A drug offense, by itself, is not enough to qualify. 

To become eligible, the BOP requires the following:

  • a verified substance abuse problem,
  • the ability to fully participate in the treatment program,
  • a willingness to receive treatment,
  • at least 24 months remaining on the person’s sentence and 
  • a signed statement accepting responsibility for the obligations of the program.

Some people are not eligible to join RDAP.

Certain people confined in a federal facility cannot join RDAP, including

  • people confined by a state or military,
  • people detained by immigration authorities (such as ICE or INS) or subject to deportation after serving a prison sentence and
  • pretrial detainees awaiting a trial or sentencing hearing and not yet convicted or sentenced.

The Takeaway:

In sum, RDAP is only available to federal prisoners. The biggest benefit is that completing RDAP can reduce your sentence by up to one year. But not everyone can qualify for RDAP. Learn more in Part 2 of this RDAP series about the program requirements and eligibility.

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