Recent legislation has changed the landscape for federal prisoners. Under the First Step Act, signed into law by the President in December of 2018 federal inmates have the incentive to receive time off their sentences by participating in designated education and work activities. The First Step Act provides eligible inmates can earn Time Credits toward prerelease custody or early transfer to supervised release for successfully completing approved Evidence-Based Recidivism Reduction Programs or Productive Activities assigned to each inmate based on the inmate’s risk and needs assessment. In this video Justin Paperny and Mike Berlon of White Collar Advice review mechanisms available to current federal inmates to reduce the length of their sentences. The advantage of the new programs is they allow prisoners to use the time of incarceration to actively reduce the time of their incarceration. The motivation to have control and manage your time in prison in a positive way is revolutionary for the American penal system. For the eligible prisoners, it transforms the incentive to seek out educational and work programs.

The mechanism involved in the Time Credits program is based upon an individual prisoner’s score on a recidivism risk analysis. Qualified individuals with a Low or Medium risk score can earn up to fifteen days of credit for every thirty days they serve. Inmates can take advantage of the Time Credit program by enrolling in educational programs and, if available, work programs. An inmate is required to go through an orientation process upon beginning their sentence. Once you clear orientation you can obtain a work position. From the very start, inmates should attempt to enroll in as many available classes as possible. Mike Berlon recommends new inmates be as aggressive as possible in pursuing the new opportunities available now as a result of the First Step Act.

An inmate needs to be proactive in obtaining the classes and work assignments to properly qualify for the Time Credit in the institution where they are designated. Speak to your counselor and your case manager about the opportunities which exist in the facility. The individual inmates need to find all possible means to obtain Time Credits. Class sizes and enrollment may be limited, and you want to reach out to the education department as soon as you arrive at an institution. The prisoner should have a positive attitude and approach in these endeavors. Cooperation and a constructive mindset will significantly help you when it comes time to ask for an early release. The decision-makers will look to your body of work in assessing and awarding you the rewards available under the First Step Act.

The team at White Collar Advice advocates for the inmate to more than just ask for permission to participate. Justin mentions one of their clients who documented the everyday activities and actions they participated in showing rehabilitation. The diary compiled was evidence demonstrating their positive attitude. The client was able to present the diary to counselors, and other prison administrators as well as future employees of the positive steps they took during their time of incarceration.

The White Collar Advice team warns about the deleterious effect of disciplinarian action against the prisoner. The First Step Act and the Cares Act both permit the prison administration to take into account even minor infractions of the rules when determining the extent of administrative relief. In this regard, a prisoner needs to establish they are adjusting well to the new environment. To demonstrate proper integration into the prison environment, the inmate must be aware of the rules of conduct. Major rules infractions like an attempted escape, possessing a cell phone, or using narcotics, are obviously going to derail a request for early release. Yet even minor infractions can add up and cause prison administrators to deny an inmate’s petition for early release. Both ordinary good time and Time Credits for programming can be revoked for disciplinarian actions.

Even the most minor or incidental actions can lead to a reprimand thwarting a prisoner’s plans to reduce their time of incarceration. Justin speaks about an inmate new to the prison camp where Justin served his time. The man was unaware of the prohibition of removing any food from the dining hall. The new inmate took a banana back to his dorm and upon the discovery of the banana by a guard was issued an incident report. Such a minor infraction could have proven disastrous, and Justin warns new prisoners to be prepared for incarceration by becoming familiar with the rules prior to starting their sentence.
Finally, the White Collar Advice team discusses the administrative remedy process. In the event, an inmate does run into trouble there exists a procedure to contest the incident report issued from a disciplinary report. An inmate should take a proactive approach to any incident report. Being proactive may sometimes alleviate the problem. Be open with the correctional officer who discovers the infraction. Occasionally, being remorseful and explaining the situation will alleviate the problem. The officer might be inclined to assign extra clean-up duty instead of issuing an incident report.

If the incident report is issued there is a specific procedure for appealing any incident report and the penalty assigned by the prison administrators for the violation. The process of appealing an incident report is referred to as administrative relief. The BP-8 is the first step in the administrative relief process. A BP-8 should be filed with your counselor. If the BP-8 is denied, the next step is filing a BP-9, an appeal to the Warden. Again, you will need to request the form from your counselor. The form is a carbon copy in triplicate. There exist time limits between receiving a denial and filing the next step of the appeal, so timeliness is important. If the Warden denies your appeal, the next step is taking your appeal to the regional office. The regional appeal is submitted by postal mail on the BP-10 form. If denied by regional the final appeal is the central office in Washington D.C., on a BP-11 form. Should all your appeals be denied, the prisoner has the choice to continue the process by filing a motion in federal district court.

It is important to understand the mechanics of filing an administrative relief. The Cares Act procedures for requesting a compassionate release, home confinement, or a reduction in sentence are based upon the administrative release procedure. The law allows an alteration of the administrative procedure in filing for any type of relief under the Cares Act. Any inmate can file for relief under the Care Act. To take advantage of the relief provided under the Cares Act the prisoner must file a request stating the reasons the inmate qualifies for early release, reduction in sentence, or compassionate release under the Cares Act.

The request to the Warden is the equivalent of a BP-9. However, the request need not be on an official BP-9 form. Any written document will be appropriate. Under the Cares Act, the warden has thirty days to respond. In thirty days if no response is received by the filing inmate within thirty days, or the request is denied, the inmate may then go directly to the Federal Court in the district where they were sentenced to file an appeal of the warden’s denial of the prisoners request for an early release, reduction in sentence, or compassionate release.

White Collar Advice’s video, “How does a Person Build an Extraordinary and Compelling Story in Prison” is a compelling and informative discussion. The video is also a must-watch for all new inmates reporting to serve a sentence in the federal penal system. The team of Justin Paperny and Mike Berlon provide a core lesson on helping prisoners take advantage of the new laws enabling prisoners to reduce the time spent in federal incarceration.