H.R. 5682 requires the Department of Justice (DOJ) to develop and apply a risk and needs assessment system to identify a prisoner’s risk and assign them to appropriate evidence-based programming. Prisoners can earn incentives for participating in the programming.
Prison reform initiatives have demonstrated success in state systems, and the FIRST STEP Act would enable the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to capitalize on similar resources at the federal level. The legislation would direct the BOP to conduct risk- and needs-assessments for every offender upon sentencing, and then to offer individualized, evidence-based recidivism reduction plans to all inmates, without exception. Programs could include vocational training, educational support, substance abuse treatment, mental health care, anger-management courses, faith-based initiatives or other resources proven to lower the chance that men and women reoffend.
The FIRST STEP Act would also prepare individuals to reenter their communities as responsible citizens by allowing them to serve the final days of their sentences in halfway houses or home confinement, which equips them with support structures as they transition out of custody. As inmates progress through rehabilitation plans tailored to their needs and approach the end of their sentences, the BOP would conduct risk- and needs-assessments more frequently in order to document when individuals have successfully reduced their risk of reoffending and to ensure that the most appropriate resources remain available to them during the reentry process.
Additional provisions of the bill would require that prisoners be placed in facilities located nearer their families, that female inmates have access to certain tampons and menstrual pads as needed, and that individuals leaving custody would receive identification documents that are often pre-requisites for employment.
The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on May 22, 2018.
Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person Act or the FIRST STEP Act
TITLE I--RECIDIVISM REDUCTION
(Sec. 101) This bill amends the federal criminal code to direct the Department of Justice to establish a risk and needs assessment system to assess and classify the recidivism risk of prisoners; to guide housing, grouping, and program assignments; and to incentivize and reward participation in and completion of recidivism reduction programs and productive activities.
(Sec. 102) The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) must implement the risk and needs assessment system.
The bill modifies the computation of good time credit to allow a prisoner to earn a maximum of 54 days per year of the sentence imposed (instead of 54 days per year of the sentence actually served).
(Sec. 103) The Government Accountability Office must audit the use of the risk and needs assessment system at BOP facilities.
(Sec. 104) The bill authorizes funds for FY2019-FY2023 to carry out this title. Of the amount appropriated, 80% is reserved for use by the BOP to implement the risk and needs assessment system.
(Sec. 105) The bill states that it does not authorize prerelease custody for an individual serving a prison term for a state offense.
(Sec. 106) It prohibits discrimination against a program, treatment, regimen, group, company, charity, person, or entity based on the fact that it may be or is faith-based.
TITLE II--BUREAU OF PRISONS SECURE FIREARMS STORAGE
Lieutenant Osvaldo Albarati Correctional Officer Self-Protection Act of 2018
(Sec. 202) The bill amends the federal criminal code to require the BOP to allow federal correctional officers to securely store and carry concealed firearms on BOP premises outside the security perimeter of a prison.
TITLE III--RESTRAINTS ON PREGNANT PRISONERS PROHIBITED
(Sec. 301) The bill amends the federal criminal code to prohibit, subject to specified conditions, the use of restraints on federal prisoners who are pregnant or in postpartum recovery.
TITLE IV--MISCELLANEOUS CRIMINAL JUSTICE
(Sec. 401) The bill amends the federal criminal code:
to direct the BOP to place a prisoner in a facility that is not more than 500 driving miles away from the prisoner's primary residence, subject to bed availability and the prisoner's security designation; and to specify that the designation of a prison placement is not reviewable by a court. (Sec. 402) The BOP must place low-risk prisoners on home confinement for the maximum amount of time permitted.
(Sec. 403) The bill amends the Second Chance Act of 2007 to reauthorize through FY2022 and modify eligibility for an elderly offender early release pilot program.
(Sec. 404) The BOP must, as part of prerelease planning procedures, help a prisoner obtain identification, including a Social Security card, driver's license or other official photo identification, and a birth certificate.
(Sec. 405) The bill authorizes Federal Prison Industries to sell products to new markets such as the District of Columbia government and nonprofit organizations.
(Sec. 406) The BOP must incorporate specialized and comprehensive de-escalation procedures into its training programs.
(Sec. 407) The BOP must report on its capacity to treat heroin and opioid abuse through evidence-based programs, including medication-assisted treatment.
The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts must report on the capacity of treatment-service providers to provide medication-assisted treatment for opioid and heroin abuse to prisoners serving a term of supervised release, including plans to expand access.
(Sec. 408) The BOP must establish pilot programs: (1) on youth mentorship; and (2) on service to abandoned, rescued, or vulnerable animals.
(Sec. 409) Probation and pretrial services officers must perform court-directed supervision of sex offenders conditionally released from civil commitment.
(Sec. 410) The bill expands data collection requirements regarding the National Prisoner Statistics Program.
(Sec. 411) The BOP must make tampons and sanitary napkins available free of charge.
(Sec. 412) This bill amends the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 to require auditors who monitor compliance with national prison rape standards to be certified.
(Sec. 413) The bill amends the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 to require at least 8% of funds for the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program to be used to provide technical assistance.