Below is a lengthy message that Michael Santos wrote and sent to our clients in federal prison. This specific article discussed the “Inmate Message” on Federal Time Credits.

If you have questions, call 949-878-2127 or schedule a call here.

Justin Paperny

“Dear Community Members,

I know we’re in super stressful times right now. Every person in federal prison likely knows about the “Inmate Message” on auto-calculation of Federal Time Credits (FTC). We’re doing our best to get a better understanding on the application of this “auto-calculation.” Once we have that understanding, we’ll develop a resource that we hope will be of value to every person in federal prison.

For new members of our community that do not know me, my name is Michael Santos. When I was 20, I made bad decisions that led to my imprisonment. After my conviction at a trial that began in 1987, a judge sentenced me to serve 45 years under the pre-sentencing guideline era. I spent the next 26 years in prisons of every security level, and I completed my sentence in 2013.

Since my release, I built a career around lessons that I learned through the journey. That career includes several businesses—but I’m most passionate about helping to improve outcomes for all justice-impacted people. Our nonprofit entity, Prison Professors, allows me to devote time and energy toward this effort. We have a small team of formerly-incarcerated people and justice-impacted people who contribute to this effort.

I want members of our community to know: 1) the plan our team at Prison Professors is taking, 2) the resources we’re going to invest to help, and 3) the way that you can help us help you.

Plan and Resources:
The first part of the plan will be to develop more understanding of how the BOP will apply this auto-calculation. I have subject-matter experts (SMEs) to give me their interpretation of the “Inmate Message” that the BOP published on auto calculations. The SMEs retired from the BOP after long careers as policy makers and administrators. Some formerly worked as wardens, others led careers as senior administrators at the BOP Central Office. Many of the SMEs had responsibilities to implement the First Step Act in the BOP, and they offer excellent insight.

We will continue to hire SMEs with hopes of getting a better understanding of how the BOP will apply this auto-calculation.

Other Resources: First Step Act Auto-Calculation of Federal Time Credits (FTC)

Simultaneously, we’re hiring a computer programmer to assist us in building a calculator to project what people can expect going forward. Building the calculator will become a significant undertaking.

The computer program must allow people to input variables. Some variables will be known, others will require projections.

For example, we will need the following known variables: 1) Sentence length in months; 2) Date of surrender to federal custody; 3) Jail-time Credit; 4) Credit for completion of RDAP for those who complete the RDAP program.

We also need to calculate Statutory Good Time (SGT), but we can easily auto-calculate SGT with a 15% reduction of sentence length for those with a sentence of longer than 12 months.

More complicated variables include: 1) how many FTC did you earn with low-pattern score; 2) how many FTC did you earn with minimum-pattern score; 3) when will you accumulate 365 days of FTCs—or—when will you advance to within 18 months of the release date—a date that will likely change each month, if you accumulate new FTCs.

If we succeed, the computer program should produce the following outputs:

• What would be the projected release date?
• How many FTCs will remain that provide the right for earlier placement in home confinement or in an RRC, irrespective of the Second Chance Act limitations?

What we Need from Members of our Community:
First, we need patience.

Please understand that we’re striving to change the system, and we’re also striving to help people work toward better outcomes. Until we build the calculator, we don’t have the capacity to calculate projections on thousands of individual release dates.

But we will do our best to try manually, and we will share our projections as we make them. This process will help our programmers, and it may help people in prison. If we calculate for one person with an 18 month sentence, it should be close to what others receive. Similarly, if we do the same for people with longer or shorter sentences, that information will be helpful.

Until we get our calculator built, we will do our best for people that provide the following, succinct information:

What was the Surrender date?
What was the Sentence length?
How many FTC credits do you project with low pattern score?
How many FTC credits do you project with a minimum pattern score?
What is the amount of RDAP reduction, if applicable:
What month do you anticipate that you’ll be within 18 months of release?

Please do not write lengthy paragraphs. If you want our team to try to calculate, we need your help in being brief.

In the subject line, please write: Calculate

In the body of the email, please provide the information to the questions above.

We will try to make a projection. And, once the BOP begins auto calculating, we’ll be able to see how close we’re getting. These different scenarios will help us refine our calculator, and we’ll also be able to see what is going on in different parts of the country.

Please be patient in getting responses. We will likely respond at scale, to members of our community. We will simply write out the projections and send reports out weekly with hopes of apprising others what we’re learning.

Because of the anticipated heavy workload, we ask members of our community to change the way they communicate with our team.

Let me explain the reason for our request.

Every day, we receive scores of messages from people across the county. To provide more timely responses, we’ve hired a person to monitor our various Corrlinks accounts. He will need to categorize the messages so the appropriate member of our team can provide a timely response. We want to send responses to our community every week.

Most of the messages we receive seek insight on the following subjects:

First Step Act
Calculate time projections
Earned Time Credits
Administrative Remedy
Habeas Corpus
Release Plan
Second Chance Act
Custody levels
Pattern Scores

To provide more timely information, we’re asking members of our community to do two things when writing to us: 1) in the subject line, use something simple like the examples above. 2) State your question at the top of the email, in the most direct manner possible.

We will continue to do our best to respond to every inquiry we receive. But if people could be succinct when requesting information from members of our team, it will help us.

As I’ve written previously, the First Step Act is the most significant piece of prison-reform legislation in decades. The Act will require lots of advocacy and litigation. Members of the media, Congress, and other advocacy groups will scrutinize how the BOP is implementing the First Step Act.

We’ve already seen many changes. For example, several months ago, the BOP proposed to grant FTCs after a person finished a certain number of hours in a qualified program. Members of Congress and advocacy groups objected. The effort led the BOP to modify its interpretation in a way that brought benefit to people in prison.

We hope to continue making improvements.

As an advocacy group, we need information to bring more awareness to the injustices of the system.

Typically, members of our community work with other people on our team for mitigation strategies and so forth. My work focuses on bringing systemic change. That means working with the people that run prisons and striving to create opportunities that will lead to better outcomes for all justice-impacted people.

For example, I’m striving to introduce more programs that will allow people greater access to FTC credits. I also work to show others why it’s in society’s best interest to create more mechanisms to allow qualified people to transition to home confinement sooner.

The CARES Act, for example, provided considerable amounts of data. Since the start of the pandemic, the BOP transitioned more than 10,000 people from secure prisons to home confinement. Less than 1 percent of the “CARES” people that completed their sentence on home confinement committed new offenses. The people that did not transition to home confinement have much higher recidivism rates.

Statisticians will use those resources to compile studies. I anticipate those studies will show that society was far better off by sending people to home confinement rather than keeping them in prison.

Changes from the CARES Act resulted in enormous cost savings to taxpayers. Further, by sending more people to home confinement, I suspect the studies will show we have lower recidivism rates.

We should not need a pandemic to let more people home.

We can use that information to influence people on the importance of more reforms to improve outcomes for people in prison, and for the broader society.

I need to show leaders how people in prison are working to prepare for success upon release, and I need to show that we can improve outcomes with more reforms and more programs.

We’ve been blessed to have many people contribute to our work by helping us draft lesson plans that we distribute to people in state and federal prisons. Recently, we’ve found more interest from administrators to bring these courses into prisons. We want to develop more. The interactions are opening opportunities for us to get the ear of administrators. And we do our best to influence them on why they should expand programs that lead more people home.

We don’t have a magic wand, or a get-out-of-jail-free card, of course. A judge imposed a sentence, and the Bureau of Prisons is doing what it does. I consider it my duty to advance possibilities to improve outcomes for people in prison. In the months to come, I pledge to continue working hard to bring change on a systemic level.

Amazon has notified us that it published our two new workbook journals. Our team has placed orders for members of our community. One of those workbooks discusses release plans; the other workbook shows examples of administrative remedy in action. Amazon will ship the workbooks and I am hopeful that members of our community will receive them before the end of the month. I’m also hopeful the BOP allows them to come through. Please let us know when you receive.

With the First Step Act, both of those lessons will prove helpful. Besides ordering the workbooks for members of our community, we’re providing links on the Prison Professors website. Anyone could order the books, and all proceeds go towards supporting our nonprofit.

Separately, while waiting to record interviews with the two former BOP officials, I wanted to offer some insight.

I know the disappointment of reading that the BOP intends to finalize release dates at 18 months. In my view, Congress intended something different. For that reason, we’ll need to expand our advocacy efforts.
On the flip side, people should have a RIGHT to apply earned time credits toward more time on home confinement. It’s still worthwhile for people to do the following: 1) Avoid disciplinary infractions; 2) participate in FRP; 3) Build an impressive release plan; 4) Show a pattern of program participation; 5) memorialize your commitment of working through programs that align with your release plans; 6) earn as many credits as possible.

With hopes of helping you, I send my personal regards.

Michael Santos