What Should I Know about RDAP and Psychology Programs?

Being separated from family, anxieties about the future, and other complications of prison life can lead to depression, or even more severe mental health problems. For that reason, every federal prison offers a Psychology Department with at least one psychologist on staff. They offer a combination of group programs. In some cases, the Psychology Department may offer individual counseling sessions.

Most of the attention in the Psychology Department goes to the substance-treatment programs. According to BOP literature, approximately 40 percent of the people in prison have histories of drug abuse. In 1996, the U.S. Congress began appropriating millions of dollars to fund drug treatment programs in federal prison. There are at least three separate psychology programs designed to help people resolve substance-abuse problems.

The first program takes place over a few weeks, lasting between 12 to 15 hours. People going through that simple program receive literature, watch videos, and listen to discussions about the ways that drug abuse interferes with possibilities of successful living.

A second program spans over several months. Staff from the psychology department meet with people enrolled in the group class for about two hours at a time. They watch videos, work through a curriculum, write essays, and discuss the various ways that substance abuse has led to problems. This treatment program, known as the Non-Residential Drug Abuse Program, is available to anyone that wants to enroll. Psychologists consider it a stepping stone to the most popular program, known as the Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP).

Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP):

The RDAP program is popular with people in prison because it can result a time cut. It is identified as a “residential” program because it reserves a specific housing unit for each person assigned to the program. Since RDAP is not available in every federal prison, people may sometimes start serving their terms in one prison, but then transfer to a prison that offers RDAP when they closer to their release date.

The RDAP program is also known as the 500-hour drug treatment program. People that participate in RDAP spend about four hours together each day in a group session or on independent study projects. Staff from the Psychology Department teach programs based on cognitive behavioral therapy. Basically, those programs endeavor to influence more positive living and thinking habits. Through a series of courses that include open-ended questions, essays, videos, reading, lectures, and personal accountability metrics, RDAP teaches lessons on the power of introspection.

Anyone may volunteer to participate in RDAP, but not everyone will be accepted. And in order to receive the time cut, a person must qualify.

How to Qualify for RDAP:

The psychology department at each prison will have a process to consider applications that people may submit if they want to participate in RDAP. After a person submits a request to participate in RDAP, a series of interviews will begin. To qualify:

• The person should have more than 24 months to serve on the sentence.
• The person should be able to document that he has a history of substance abuse during the 12-month period that preceded the arrest for the current offense.
• The person should not have any serious mental problems.
• The person must now how to read and write in order to complete the program.
• The person should not have any issues that could result in deportation.
• The person should not have any history of violence or weapons.

In practice, the Presentence Investigation Report will be the most relevant documentation when it comes to qualifying for the RDAP program. The more evidence a person can provide to show a history of substance abuse, the better. But in practice, to qualify easily, a person should admit to substance abuse within the 12 months that preceded the arrest. If the person makes such an admission during the interview with the probation officer for the presentence investigation report, that self-reporting may suffice. The more verification, the better.

Program Statement 5330.11 provides some guidance on what psychology staff must consider for RDAP applicants. The staff is supposed to review the PSR to assess whether the applicant meets the diagnostic criteria for abuse or dependence on the Diagnostic and Statistical manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V).

The substance abuse doesn’t have to be linked to the offense, and a judge doesn’t have to recommend RDAP.

Unfortunately, many people do not want to reveal their problems with substance abuse when they meet with a probation officer. They believe that discussing substance abuse may result in an unfavorable assessment of the person.

People that minimize their experience with substance abuse may face challenges in being accepted into the RDAP program. The higher the level of documentation they can provide, the more they strengthen their application. If a person tells a probation officer that he used drugs or drinks recreationally, or socially, the report may not help. Staff members may obstruct their efforts to qualify for RDAP.

Defendants that want to qualify for RDAP should discuss their interest with the defense attorney or with someone else that has knowledge of RDAP. Members on our team have extensive knowledge of RDAP, and they can provide personal guidance. If the person failed to reveal everything to the probation officer, then it may be important to gather other evidence to verify substance abuse.

It would also be helpful for the attorney to make a solid case for the defendant to become a candidate for RDAP during the sentencing hearing. He may ask the judge to recommend RDAP in the “Statement of Reasons.” The judge should make a finding that states the defendant had a substance-abuse problem during the past 12 months and that he wants the defendant to get treatment while in prison.

Other documentation that help a person overcome insufficient PSR documentation include:

• Documentation from a substance abuse treatment provider.
• Documentation from a licensed healthcare professional that diagnosed and treated the person during the 12-month period before the person’s arrest on the instant offense.
• Proof of two or more convictions for driving while intoxicated within the five years before the arrest.

Some categories of offenses or conviction-status make people ineligible for the time cut from RDAP. They may include:

• Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees
• Inmates that have not yet been convicted of a crime
• People that were not convicted in federal court
• Inmates with detainers that preclude halfway house placement
• Inmates with a history of violent offenses

Stated reasons for ineligibility for early release from RDAP include:

• Prior felony or misdemeanor conviction for any of the following offenses:
o Homicide
o Forcible rape
o Robbery
o Aggravated assault
o Arson
o Kidnapping,
o Sexual abuse upon minors
• Current felony conviction for:
o An element that includes attempted force against a person or property
o An offense that involves the carrying, possession, or use of a firearm or other dangerous weapon
o An offense that includes a serious potential risk of physical force, or
o An offense that involves sexual abuse against minors
o People that got the benefit of RDAP on a previous conviction

Amount of Sentence Reduction through RDAP Program:

Not everyone qualifies for the maximum of 12-month sentence reduction. The amount of time off depends upon the length of sentence imposed:

• Sentence of 37 months or longer: Receive up to 12 months off the sentence upon the completion of the program.
• Sentence of between 31 and 36 months: Receive up to nine months off the sentence upon the completion of the program.
• Sentence of 24-30 months: Receive up to six months off the sentence.

In addition to the time cut, people that complete RDAP will also receive at least six months of placement in community confinement. With the First Step Act, they may get to serve the final year of their sentence in a community confinement center (halfway house / home confinement).
The Psychology Department offers other programs at specific institutions. As of this writing, those programs do not result in any type of time cut. Those other psychology programs include:

Bureau Rehabilitation and Values Enhancement (BRAVE) Program:

This program is only offered at FCI Beckley medium and FCI Victorville medium. It is designed for people that are 32 years of age or younger, and they have 60 months or longer to serve. Completion of BRAVE may spare those people being transferred to a USP. It focuses on helping people develop interpersonal skills and improving their attitude so they don’t get into more problems in prison.

Challenge Program:

This is a program for people in some high-security prisons. Participants must have a history of substance abuse or major mental illness like psychotic disorder, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, or personality disorders. It’s a residential program in penitentiaries and may help people avoid some of the volatility of high security. It’s currently available at:

• Big Sandy, KY
• Hazelton, WV
• McCreary, KY
• Terre Haute, IN
• Allenwood, PA
• Canaan, PA
• Beaumont, TX
• Coleman, FL
• Pollock, LA
• Tucson, AZ
• Atwater, CA

Resolve Program:

The Resolve Program is mostly reserved for female inmates that have histories of trauma. Program participants learn to cope with the trauma, using curriculum, videos, counseling, and other cognitive processing therapy. It’s available in the following prisons:

• Alderson, WV
• Hazelton WV
• Lexington, KY
• Greenville, IL
• Waseca, MN
• Danbury, CT
• Florence, CO
• Bryan, TX
• Carswell, TX
• Aliceville, AL
• Coleman, FL
• Marianna, FL
• Tallahassee, FL
• Dublin, CA
• Victorville, CA

Sex Offender Treatment Program (Non-Residential)

Most participants in the SOTP-NR have a history of a single sex crime. They are usully first-time offenders serving a sentence for an Internet sex offense. The program is voluntary, and available at the following prisons:

• Petersburg, VA
• Englewood, CO
• Marion, IL
• Elkton, OH
• Carswell, TX
• Seagoville, TX
• Mariana, FL
• Tucson, AZ

Sex Offender Treatment Program (Residential)

Participants in the SOTP-R have a history of multiple sex crimes, extensive non-sexual criminal histories, and or a high level of sexual deviancy or hypersexuality. The progam is voluntary. Prior to placement in the the program, the must be screened and accepted.

• Marion, IL
• FMC Devens, MA

Skills Program:

This program is for male inmates with significant functional impairment due to intellectual disabilities, neurological deficits, and social skills deficits. They must be eligible for housing in low or medium security. They must volunteer, have no history of sexual predatory violence, and be within 24 months of release when they begin the program.

• Danbury, CT
• Coleman, FL

Steps Toward Emotional Growth and Awareness Program (STAGES)
Inmates referred to the STAGES Program have a primary diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder and a history of unfavorable institutional adjustment linked to this disorder. Examples of unfavorable institutional adjustment include multiple incident reports, suicide watches, and/or extended placement in restrictive housing. Inmates designated to the STAGES Program must volunteer for treatment and be willing to actively engage in the treatment process. Willingness to engage in the treatment is assessed through a brief course of pre-treatment in which the inmate learns basic skills at the referring institution.

• Terre Haute, IN
• Florence, CO

Life Connections Program (LCP)

The LCP is a residential faith-based program offered to inmates of all faith traditions, including for those who do not hold to a religious preference. This program is available to offenders at low, medium, and high security facilities. The goal of LCP is to provide opportunities for the development and maturation of the participants’ commitment to normative values and responsibilities, resulting in overall changed behavior and better institutional adjustments. In addition, the participants receive life skills and practical tools and strategies to assist them in transitioning back to society once released from federal custody.

Program admission criteria are as follows:
• Low and medium security male offenders within 24 to 36 months of their projected release date.
• High security male offenders with 30 months or more prior to their projected release date.
• Low security female offenders with 30 months or more prior to their projected release date.
• Must not have a written deportation order.
• Must not be on Financial Responsibility Program (FRP) Refuse status.
• Must have met English as a Second Langue (ESL) and GED obligations.
• Must receive recommendation

• Petersburg, VA
• Leavenworth, KS
• Milan, MI
• Terre Haute, IN
• Carswell, TX

Justin Paperny