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First Step Act Summary: Common Questions Answered

It has been over eight months since the First Step Act of 2018 was enacted. I have consistently written about the First Step Act since it was adopted. But many people still have questions, and I have been repeatedly asked to provide a First Step Act summary. Fortunately, the Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") finally released a series of Frequently Asked Questions concerning the First Step Act. I have reproduced the BOP's First Step Act summary in its entirety below. The BOP's First Step Act summary is important because it gives the agency's interpretation of its obligations under the First Step Act. I hope you find this information helpful.

First Step Act Summary

What is the First Step Act?

The First Step Act (FSA) is a law, signed on December 21, 2018, with provisions that impact Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) inmates and their families. The law:

  • gives judges greater latitude in imposing mandatory minimum sentences,
  • allows inmates to earn increased good conduct time,
  • increases BOP recidivism reduction programming to address inmate's needs,
  • offers earned time credits for completion of recidivism reduction programs and/or productive activities, and
  • expands opportunities for inmate placement into residential reentry centers or home confinement.

Do military or state offenders benefit from any of the provisions of the FSA?

first step act summary

First Step Act Summary

The Risk and Needs Assessment system will be used to assign all inmates to a recidivism risk category and their needs will be assessed, however, military code and state offenders will not be eligible to earn time credits as the law applies to U.S. (federal) code offenders only. Additionally, the Second Chance Act Home Confinement Pilot Program and the changes to 18 U.S.C. § 3582 related to the compassionate release program only apply to U.S. (federal) code offenders.

However, the BOP will consider military or state offenders for pre-release custody in accordance with existing BOP release preparation policies.

General BOP policies which address management of the inmate population, such as prohibitions against restraining pregnant offenders, the provision of sanitary products to female offenders, providing assistance for release preparation in obtaining identification, and increased privileges for inmate participation in programs and productive activities will be applied to all persons in BOP custody, including military and state offenders.

About Brandon Sample

Brandon Sample is an attorney, author, and criminal justice reform activist. Brandon’s law practice is focused on federal criminal defense, federal appeals, federal post-conviction relief, federal civil rights litigation, federal administrative law, and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

1 Comment

  1. Nervous Nellie on November 18, 2019 at 10:26 pm

    How does this work? Why is everything so hard?? When will it change?

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