We have been receiving many phone calls an emails regarding the meaning and application of the First Step Act. We will summarize its relevant provisions and hope to clarify many of its misunderstood provisions.
- The Act made retroactive the reforms enacted by the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which reduced the disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentences at the federal level. This could affect nearly 2,600 federal inmates. Thus, inmates that were sentenced under the old 100 to 1 crack to powder cocaine statutes can now petition the court for a sentence reduction. We expect the Federal Public Defender’s Offices to contact affected inmates. Such inmates can also retain their own counsel of file the requisite motions pro se.
- The Act also took several steps to ease mandatory minimum sentences under federal law. It also expanded the “safety valve” that judges can use to avoid handing down mandatory minimum sentences. It will now also cover defendants who have up to four criminal history points (not counting one-point offenses), as calculated under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. It eased a “three strikes” rule so people with three or more convictions, including for drug offenses, automatically get 25 years instead of life, among other changes. These provisions are NOT retroactive and only apply to defendants who have not yet been sentenced.
- The Act increased “good time credits” that inmates can earn. Inmates who avoid a disciplinary record can currently get credits of up to 47 days per year incarcerated. The Act increases the cap to 54 days, allowing well-behaved inmates to cut their prison sentence by an additional week for each year they’re incarcerated. The change would apply retroactively but will not go into effect until July 19, 2019.
- The Act allows many inmates to earn “earned time credits” by participating in additional vocational and rehabilitative programs. Those credits would allow them to be released significantly earlier to halfway houses or home confinement. The statutory cap of no more than 12 months in a halfway house and 10% or six months in home confinement, whichever is less, does not apply to inmates who have acquired “earned time credits.” However, much of this portion of the bill will not take affect for quite a while. The Bureau has 210 days to devise a risk assessment tool, 180 days to apply the tool then 2 years to implement the programming which would allow inmates to begin to acquire earned time credits.
- The Act also reauthorized the certain provisions of the Second Chance Act of 2010 which authorized an Elderly Offender Pilot Program. That Program has been reauthorized whereby certain non-violent, non-sex offender inmates over age 60 who have completed 2/3 of their sentence can be granted home confinement before they are otherwise eligible. This program will be available in all federal facilities.
- The Act inmates or their representatives to file a motion directly with the court for Compassionate Release rather than only permitting the BOP from doing so.
Of course, if you have any question please feel free to contact us at 615-696-6153 or at email@example.com
As many who follow our website and blogs know, the Republican controlled House of Representatives passed the First Step Act on May 22, 2018 and presented it to the Senate the day after. The First Step Act is a federal prison reform bill that will allow federal inmates to earn more time in alternative facilities such as Residential Reentry Centers (Halfway Houses) and Home Confinement upon successful completion of certain types of vocational and rehabilitative programs while in federal prison. It also would allow for a true 54 days of Good Time Credit rather than the Bureau of Prisons’ interpretation of only 47 days. The Senate has yet to take any substantive action on the First Step Act as certain senators on both sides of the aisle are pushing for a more expansive bill that would include sentencing reform as well. These senators are seeking a bill that would reduce prison sentences for large class of non-violent offenders. However, politics being what it is, there are other senators that, although they support the First Step Act, oppose the more expansive bill that includes sentencing reform. Thus, there is a standstill in the Senate as it appears that both the First Step Act and the proposed bill, known as the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, may very well be considered DOA—Dead on Arrival. Our view at NPSC is simple: Although our nation and its federal inmates needs BOTH federal sentencing AND prison reform, a half a loaf is always better than no loaf at all. With the midterms a mere 54 days away, time is of the essence to urge your Senator to push for approval of the First Step Act. To find your Senator’s contact information click here. Of course, if you have any question please feel free to contact us at 615-696-6153 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Today the United States Supreme Court issued two decisions that can have a significant impact on a large number of current federal inmates. In Hughes v. United States, the Court addressed the issue of whether a federal inmate who enters a plea pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1)(C) can seek to be resentenced pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(2) when the Sentencing Commission makes an amendment that subsequently lowers the guideline range. A plea under FRCP 11(c)(1)(C), although not commonly utilized, is a specific agreement between the government and the defendant to a specific defined sentence and, if accepted by the court, that specified sentence must be imposed by the court leaving the court no discretion. The Hughes decision makes it clear that a federal inmate even with a FRCP 11(c)(1)(C) plea has a right to be resentenced if the applicable guideline range is subsequently reduced. This is great news for about 800 federal inmates anticipated to be affected by this decision.
In another case, Koons v. United States, the Court decided whether defendants subject to statutory mandatory minimum sentences, but who received prison terms below the minimum because they provided substantial assistance to the government, are eligible for reductions under 18 U.S.C. §3582(c)(2). The Court held that these type of federal inmates are NOT entitled for a resentencing under 18 U.S.C. §3582(c)(2).
If you have any questions or may need or assistance, please contact National Prison & Sentencing Consultants (NPSC) at email@example.com or at 615-696-6153.
We at NPSC have already received many inquiries about the impact of yesterday’s Supreme Court decision Sessions v. Dimaya which can be found here. There is the potential that Dimaya can have a significant impact on many federal inmates who have had their sentence enhanced or a conviction based upon allegedly having committed a “crime of violence” as defined by 18 U.S.C. §16(b) or 18 U.S.C. §924(c). Clearly, defendants who have not yet been sentenced or whose sentences are not yet final or have an appeal pending may be able obtain significant benefit from the application of Dimaya. For other federal inmates where Dimaya may have a beneficial effect may need to secure counsel and file a §2255 petition. It is advised that no one should file a petition pro se as such matters are very complicated and skilled counsel will give the federal inmate the best chance of reducing their sentence. Such inmates may also want to contact the appropriate Office of the Federal Public Defender for assistance and guidance. Feel free to contact NPSC at 615-696-6153 or at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or for a referral to private legal counsel with experience in such matters.
National Prison and Sentencing Consultants (NPSC) has heard many rumors from federal inmates and others that have been circulating relating to the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ closing certain federal prison camps in an effort to comply with its reduced 2019 Federal Budget allocation. Although it is unclear what has been approved 2019, the 2019 Budget request by the Bureau of Prisons called for the closure of 2 of 7 federal standalone camps. We have been asked about these rumors and as of this date do not have a definitive answer as to which camps, if any, will in fact be closed in 2019. However, the seven-standalone federal prison are: FPC Pensacola, FPC Montgomery, FPC Duluth, FPC Alderson, FPC Bryan, FPC Morgantown and FPC Yankton. We do find this putative budget cut and tentative closures curious when in fact the Department of Justice also proposed the elimination of a planned new $50,000,000 federal prison in Eastern Kentucky, but Congress, under the leadership of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), approved the funding for this new and admittedly unnecessary facility. Even more curious is the fact that this new facility is slated to also have a satellite prison camp adjacent to a high security facility. As of this date we do not know which federal camps will be closed, if any. Of course, National Prison and Sentencing Consultants will keep all updated as new and reliable information becomes available.
Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court heard oral argument on two cases that can have a significant impact on a large number of current federal inmates. Both of these cases can result in a significant number of federal inmates begin released from federal prison earlier than anticipated. In Hughes v. United States the court will address the thorny issue of whether a federal inmate who enters a plea pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1)(C) can seek to be resentenced pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(2) when the Sentencing Commission makes an amendment that subsequently lowers the guideline range. A plea under FRCP 11(c)(1)(C), although not commonly utilized, is a specific agreement between the government and the defendant to a specific defined sentence and, if accepted by the court, that specified sentence must be imposed by the court leaving the court no discretion. It is estimated that the decision in this case will affect approximately 800 federal inmates. In a similar case, Koons v. United States, the court will decide whether defendants subject to statutory mandatory minimum sentences, but who received prison terms below the minimum because they provided substantial assistance to the government, are eligible for reductions under 18 U.S.C. §3582(c)(2). It is estimated by the Sentencing Commission that this case will affect approximately 3000 federal inmates. Both cases will interpret 18 U.S.C. §3582(c)(2) and what the term “based on a sentencing range that has subsequently been lowered by the Sentencing Commission” means in both scenarios. Not only will both these cases affect thousands of current federal inmates but can affect innumerable inmates in the future particularly as the United States Sentencing Commission is poised to adopt significant amendments which may have retroactive effect in November 2018. It is anticipated that the Supreme Court will rule by the end of its current session in June 2018 If you have any questions or may need or assistance, please contact National Prison & Sentencing Consultants (NPSC) at email@example.com or at 615-696-6153.
As National Prison & Sentencing Consultants reported last November, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has been quietly terminating contracts with certain Residential Re-entry Centers, commonly known as Halfway Houses. Many of our clients, as well as thousands of other federal inmates have been unnecessarily and unduly kept in a federal prison, many beyond their original RRC release dates and even their 10% Home Confinement date. If this has occurred to you or a loved one, please contact us immediately. We will try to help all maximize their RRC or Home Confinement date if at all possible. It may be even possible to expedite placement in Home Confinement depending upon a myriad of individualized and particular circumstances. Of course, if you have any questions or may need or assistance, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 615-696-6153
November 13, 2017 Update on Halfway House Closures
As many in the federal prison community are aware, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has been quietly terminating contracts with certain Residential Re-entry Centers, commonly known as Halfway Houses. We have been trying to get to the bottom of this since we first heard about late last month. We have obtained a list of those Halfway Houses being closed. There are 16 with a total bed space of between 277 and 300 for federal inmates. In response to inquiries by interested parties and public interest groups, the Bureau of Prisons stated unequivocally that the closures would only affect approximately 1% of the federal prison population. However, we have been getting calls from a great number of clients, concerned family members and even halfway houses themselves and started to believe that the closures had to affect more than 1% of the federal prison population. What we have learned that as a general matter of policy, the Bureau is “reducing its use of Residential Reentry Centers without explanation or advance notice to those most affected.” (Letter dated October 26, 2017 from the US Senate to the BOP.) In other words, substantially more than 1% of federal inmates are having their halfway house time either reduced or eliminated altogether with many federal inmates staying in prison longer and not receiving the transitional services that many so dearly need. National Prison & Sentencing Consultants continues to investigate this fluid situation and its clients concerns and inquiries. If you have any questions or may need or assistance, please contact us at email@example.com or at 615-696-6153
As reported here, the Trump administration has been quietly cutting funding for or closing 16 federal Residential Reentry Centers, commonly referred to as halfway houses. NPSC has been monitoring this situation as a few weeks back several of our clients contacted us inquiring as to why their halfway house placement dates were pushed back or cancelled altogether. Although federal halfway houses have always been viewed as a useful and productive method of assisting with inmate re-integration and adjustment, this new development will result in significantly more time in prison for a large number of federal inmates. We would like to believe that the BOP would utilize home confinement to ease this backlog, but to date we have not heard of such on a system wide basis. Please feel free to contact us with your questions or concerns or to inquire if NPSC can be of assistance