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Federal Inmates Cite Release Date Errors Under First Step Law

The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is under new leadership but it is still suffering from decades of mismanagement. BOP Director Colette Peters took over from Michael Carvajal in August. The First Step Act (FSA) was signed in December 2018. At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last month, Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL) said he was frustrated that First Step had not been fully implemented. Peters assured senators that an auto-calculator was completed in August that provided credits to prisoners that had the effect of reducing many sentences, Forbes reports. That auto-calculator was not communicated to prisoners or the public at the time of the hearing..

Dozens of prisoners told Forbes that calculations were not communicated to them nor reflected on, which tracks release dates for federal prisoners. Anticipating the computer program’s rollout that would speed many release dates, prisoners and their families eagerly awaited the news of when they would be going home. As the weeks passed after after August, prisoners still had no news. It was not until the week of October 3 that FSA credits started to be applied. One inmate said, "I was expecting a year of credits and I got four months. I have no idea what happened.” The calculator still makes mistakes. Prisoners who were transferred to a halfway house after receiving an interim calculation of their sentence were told they would be returning to prison after the new calculation took away a year. Colitha Bush had been in a halfway house for a few weeks when the director of her Houston facility called her and said, “I hope you’re sitting down.” The director told her a new sentence calculation said she was not due to be released until April 2024. Bush said, “I couldn’t believe that they were going to send me back to prison after I took all those classes and did what the First Step Act required.” The next day, she was told BOP had corrected her date, and she could stay in the halfway house.


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