The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released a study on the
Bureau of Prisons’ authority to shorten a federal prisoner’s sentence. The
Bureau of Prisons (BOP) was found to have three principal authorities with
respect to sentence reduction: prisoners can earn up to twelve months off for
successfully completing the Residential Drug Abuse Treatment Program (RDAP);
eligible prisoners can be transferred to community corrections for up to the
final 12 months of their sentences; and prisoners can theoretically earn up to
54 days a year for good conduct while incarcerated.

Unfortunately, according to the GAO’s review of data from 2009 to 2011, due to
budgetary constraints, mismanagement or bureaucratic indifference, the BOP does
not fully utilize all of the sentence-reduction resources at its disposal. As a
result, federal prisoners spend more time away from their families and
communities, which costs the taxpayers millions of dollars and contributes to
prison overcrowding.

The GAO concluded by stating, “Federal inmate populations have been increasing
and BOP is operating at more than a third over capacity. In addition, the
absence of parole in the federal system and other federal statutes limit BOP’s
authority to modify an inmate’s period of incarceration. Inmates, who earn
their good conduct time, as most do, end up serving about 87 percent of their
sentences. BOP’s housing of inmates in community-based facilities or home
detention is a key flexibility it uses to affect a prisoner’s period of
incarceration. However, BOP does not require its RRC contractors to separate
the price of home detention services from the price of RRC beds. As a result,
BOP lacks information on the price of home detention that could assist it in
weighing the costs and benefits of alternative options for supervising inmates
in home detention.”

Thus, the GAO recommended that the BOP “establish a plan, including time frames
and milestones for completion, for requiring [RRC] contractors to submit
separate prices for RRC beds and home detention services” – data which the BOP
does not currently collect, which would assist federal prison officials in
making future community corrections placement decisions.

Source: “Report to Congressional Requesters, Bureau of Prisons, Eligibility and
Capacity Impact Use of Flexibilities to Reduce Inmates’ Time in Prison,”
GAO-12-320 (Feb. 7, 2012)

(First published by Prison Legal News and used here by permission)

About Christopher Zoukis, MBA

Christopher Zoukis, MBA, is the Managing Director of the Zoukis Consulting Group, a federal prison consultancy that assists attorneys, federal criminal defendants, and federal prisoners with prison preparation, in-prison matters, and reentry. His books include Directory of Federal Prisons (Middle Street Publishing, 2020), Federal Prison Handbook (Middle Street Publishing, 2017), Prison Education Guide (PLN Publishing, 2016), and College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Company, 2014).

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