Tue. Jun 18th, 2024

Despite First Step Act, some federal inmates remain in prison extra months

By 37ci3 Jun1,2024



The The First Step Act in the Trump Era has allowed thousands of non-violent federal offenders to leave prison sooner, but advocates say they are reviewing numerous cases of inmates staying behind bars longer than they should have — raising questions about that. ongoing execution failures.

Sreedhar Potarazu, a former federal inmate who sued a Maryland prison in 2022 to count time credits earned under the First Step Act, has turned his insider knowledge of the law to helping inmates set accurate dates. released from prison, usually to a halfway house or house arrest, until their sentences are served.

In nine cases reviewed by Potarazu and shared with NBC News, inmates were held between two and eight months past their “internal deadline,” a term he said means an inmate could technically be moved out of prison before incarceration because they. enough time credit accumulated by participating rehabilitation and work programs and drug and alcohol abuse counseling.

“Even a life held longer is unfair,” Potarazu said, adding, “The taxpayer should care because they’re footing the bill. Maybe there’s no one there, but you’re still paying for it.”

Walter Pavlo, president of Prisonology LLC, a consulting firm whose experts include former federal Bureau of Prisons case managers, supervisors and sentencing experts, said he regularly sees cases of inmates who stay in prison past their due date. The main problem seems to be a lack of capacity in halfway houses.

Domestically, the BOP says it has a contract approximately 160 halfway houses It offers more than 10,000 beds, although it is unclear how often they are at maximum capacity and whether they can offer additional space.

The agency says more than 8,200 inmates are in halfway houses.

In response to BOP tracking how many inmates may be incarcerated longer because of delays in handovers, the agency said Thursday that no such data is collected.

“Every effort is made to review and coordinate available resources within the community so that individuals can use time credits,” the BOP said.

The agency added that it is “making every effort to accommodate individuals eligible for release under the First Step Act,” but “there are potential concerns in some areas, particularly in densely populated urban areas.”

Pavlo said he saw it anecdotally.

“I have families calling half the houses every day asking when the place will be,” she said. “What’s annoying is that it’s so discombobulated.”

The The First Step Act, a bipartisan law In 2018, a law signed by then-President Donald Trump was enacted to allow “minimum risk” or “low risk” criminals to receive reduced sentences. Supporters believe the law could reduce harsh sentences for non-violent drug offenders, reduce recidivism and help reduce the prison population, while reducing racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

There are over 144,000 people Held under BOP control, the bureau’s data show, has generally declined over the decades. The agency says more than 33,500 prisoners eligible for the First Step Act have been released.

But over the years, concerns about the implementation of the law have grown time credits ais correctly added and applied again as business managers record data. As of 2022 BOP refined the time credits programAlthough preliminary, a new computer program was launched to automatically calculate those loans suffered a technical failure.

The BOP said Thursday that “credits are calculated as required under the First Step Act.”

Pavlo said the issue has now moved beyond counting time credits to the agency’s responsibility to house inmates as part of their out-of-jail or pretrial detention.

The First Step Act requires the BOP director to “ensure that sufficient release capacity is available to accommodate all eligible inmates.”

One 2023 annual reportthe agency said it is “too early to estimate the cost savings resulting from implementation” of the law and that the BOP is “responsible for the costs of transferring individuals from an institution to home or home detention.”

“BOP does not have any findings at this time to report based on early transfer to pre-release detention,” the report states.

Data has been published in Federal Register September shows that housing a federal inmate costs $116.91 a day, while a halfway house costs $107.39 a day. The costs for house arrest control In fiscal year 2020, it was about $55.26 per day.

Rep. David Trone, D-Md., a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said additional savings are achieved when an inmate who has passed through First Step Act programs is rehabilitated, finds work through transitional housing and ultimately never returns. prison.

“I always refer to the First Step Act as criminal justice,” Trone said. “We need to make real savings and give people a real second chance. We did not implement the First Step Act properly.”

Ames Grawert, senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice, which has researched the law, said it wouldn’t be surprising if inmates weren’t allowed into halfway houses based on their means — but it’s up to Congress. Ensuring that the BOP has the funding and infrastructure in place to implement the First Step Act.

“Enforcement of any law is always a challenge, especially when you’re dealing with a system as complex and as complex as the Bureau of Prisons,” Gravert said. “It’s not that people made mistakes when they drafted the bill, it’s just that it’s really, really hard to implement a follow-up.”

Potarazu, an ophthalmic surgeon, said he will serve at least an additional four months in prison on financial fraud charges after becoming eligible to move into a halfway house in 2023 under the First Step Act.

He first filed for 2022 exact time credits, and a federal judge in Baltimore finally ruled in his case on Wednesday. It was dismissed without prejudice after a judge said Potarazu’s case was “moot” because he was no longer in BOP custody.

But, Potarazu said, it was upheld after the judge wrote, “BOP acknowledges that the applicant’s earned time credits were miscalculated several times.”

The agency declined to comment on the verdict Thursday.

Potarazu said he ultimately wants to see others like him released when the BOP is legally obligated to do so, and that inmates should not feel they will be behind bars longer than necessary and go through the length of the court process. it can take years.

“Even if you have the foresight to do it, you’re still trapped,” he said.



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