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Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP)

The crown jewel of the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ rehabilitation programs is their Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP). Inmates who qualify for this rigorous, residential nine-month drug treatment program receive a sentence reduction of up to one year and a recommendation for a maximum halfway house placement.

But while many federal prisoners desire to participate, few qualify for the corresponding sentence reduction.

In order to qualify for RDAP, prisoners must pass these three criteria:

  1. The inmate must have a verifiable substance abuse disorder
  2. They must sign an agreement acknowledging the terms of the program
  3. They must be able to complete all phases of the program, including the Transitional Drug Abuse Treatment (TDAT) component which is completed while in a halfway house

To qualify for the year off time credit, an inmate can not be convicted of a crime that is deemed violent by Program Statement 5162.05. Such prisoners are excluded based on 18 U.S.C. s. 3621.

Individual crimes such as robbery, forcible rape, and homicide, and others bar most federal prisoners from getting the time off credit. It is possible the Federal Bureau of Prisons may expand the pool of prisoners eligible for the one-year sentence reduction, but nothing has been finalized.

While this is the only meaningful way to obtain a post-sentencing sentence reduction (other than downward departures based on helping the government investigate criminal acts), the RDAP program is not fast, easy, or simple. RDAP participants must move housing units and, at times, even transfer prisons in order to participate. They must also engage in an intensive program consisting of individual and group therapy sessions, along with a difficult system of holding fellow RDAP participants accountable for misconduct for minor, non-disciplinary issues. For example, they might hold you accountable for standing on the compound (as opposed to walking, which is required). RDAP participants don’t hold fellow program participants accountable for serious rule infractions such as drinking or getting high.

It should also be noted that RDAP participants are regularly disciplined, suspended, and kicked out of the program for misconduct or failure to successfully complete a program component (e.g., holding others accountable).

Basically, for those who qualify for RDAP, the year off is the best option they have for a sentence reduction, but it comes at a heavy social and time cost. But for those who are willing to put in the work and, more importantly, those who want to get help with their drug and alcohol addictions, RDAP can do a whole world of good during the program and for years to come.

To sign up for RDAP, you need to speak with your Psychology Department and let them know you would like to be evaluated for RDAP placement. When you have about three years left of your prison term, your Psychology Department will discuss program acceptance or denial based on your individual situation. Assuming you qualify for program participation, they will ask you if you are still interested. If you are, they will schedule you for a true RDAP interview.

In an RDAP interview, you will be asked a number of questions to determine if you sincerely want to participate, or if you are just trying to get the one-year sentence reduction. During this interview, it is important that you sell yourself and your desire to get help from your serious drug and/or alcohol addiction. If you meet all the criteria mentioned above, then you should qualify for the year off.

Crimes of violence, as defined by PS 5162.05, preclude certain federal prisoners from being awarded the year off after completing RDAP. These include homicide, forcible rape robbery, and others. (This is subject to change.) Sex offenders are not barred from RDAP participation, or from the year off, but they could be precluded based on other criminal history concerns and other reasons.

Note that just because you might not qualify for the year off doesn’t mean you don’t qualify for RDAP. During my time in prison, I knew several fellow prisoners who took the program in order to get some help with their addictions, even though they didn’t qualify for the year off.

If you’re denied acceptance into the program or the year off, you can always file an administrative remedy seeking review of the denial.

Contact us for more information or details about RDAP.