Reducing Federal Prison Time After Incarceration Begins: What Every Criminal Defense Attorney Should Know

New Jersey Criminal Lawyers Schwartz Posnock

The Government Accountability Office recently reported to the Congress on the Bureau of Prisons (Fed BOP) authority to reduce a prisoner’s period of incerceration. In the event that a client is sentenced to a term on incrceration in federal prison, criminal defense lawyers in New Jersey should know that a sentence may be reduced by application to the Fed BOP under the following circumstances.

The Fed BOP primarily uses three authorities – the Residential Drug Abuse Treatment Program (RDAP), community corrections, and good conduct time. Eligible inmates can participate in RDAP before release from prison, but those eligible for a sentence reduction are generally unable to complete RDAP in time to earn the maximum reduction (generally 12 months).  During fiscal years 2009 through 2011, of the 15,302 inmates who completed RDAP and were eligible for a sentence reduction, 2,846 (19 percent) received the maximum reduction and the average reduction was 8.0 months.  BOP officials said that participants generally do not receive the maximum reduction because they have less than 12 months to serve when they complete RDAP.

To facilitate inmates’ reintegration into society, BOP may transfer eligible inmates to community corrections locations for up to the final 12 months of their sentences.  Inmates may spend this time in contract residential re-entry centers (RRCs) — also known as halfway houses — and in detention in their homes for up to 6 months.  Based on the most recently available data, almost 29,000 inmates completed their sentences through community corrections in fiscal year 2010, after an average placement of about 4 months; 17,672 in RRCs, 11,094 in RRCs then home detention, and 145 in home detention only.

Most eligible inmates receive all of their potential good conduct time credit for exemplary compliance with institutional disciplinary regulations – 54 days taken off their sentence, per year served, if an inmate has earned or is earning a high school diploma; 42 days if not.  As of the end of fiscal years 2009, 2010, and 2011, about 87 percent of inmates had earned all of their available credit.

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