Department of Justice Announces First Step Act Implementation Progress
Today, the Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice (NIJ), in accordance with the First Step Act, has announced the selection of the nonprofit and nonpartisan Hudson Institute to host the Independent Review Committee. The Committee, whose members will be appointed by Hudson Institute in accordance with the Act’s requirements, will assist the Department as it develops and implements risk and needs assessment tools and evidence-based recidivism reduction programs.
“The Department of Justice is committed to implementing the First Step Act,” said Attorney General William Barr. “The Independent Review Committee plays an important role in that effort by assisting in the development of a new risk and needs assessment system and improvements to our recidivism reduction programming. I am grateful to Hudson Institute for hosting this important Committee, which will lead to better policies at the Department and, ultimately, better outcomes for prisoners reentering society.”
NIJ also announced today that it is contracting with outside experts and leading researchers, including Dr. Grant Duwe Ph.D., Dr. Zachary Hamilton Ph.D., and Dr. Angela Hawken Ph.D., for assistance and consultation as the Department develops the Risk and Needs Assessment System under the Act. Dr. Duwe is the Director of Research for the Minnesota Department of Corrections, and a nationally recognized expert on the development of recidivism risk assessment systems. Dr. Hamilton is an Associate Professor of Criminal Justice and Criminology and the Director of the Washington State Institute for Criminal Justice, and focuses on treatment matching through risk and needs assessment systems. Dr. Hawken is a Professor of Public Policy at the New York University Marron Institute, and is the founder and director of New York University’s Litmus/BetaGov program, which assists in the development and validation of data-driven policies. Each of these experts will bring unique expertise as they augment NIJ and the Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) efforts to implement the Act.
Today’s announcements by NIJ are the latest in a growing list of accomplishments as the Department works diligently to implement the Act, signed into law in December 2018. Some other highlights of the Department’s ongoing implementation efforts include:
- NIJ has hosted “listening sessions” to receive input from more than 25 stakeholders regarding the development of the Risk and Needs Assessment System under the Act. These stakeholders represent a diverse array of viewpoints, and presented helpful information to consider as the Department implements the Act.
- The Act’s retroactive application of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 (reducing the disparity between crack cocaine and powder cocaine threshold amounts triggering mandatory minimum sentences) has resulted in 826 sentence reductions and 643 early releases.
- BOP has 20 pilot dog programs operating under Sec. 608 of the Act. BOP has also developed a youth mentoring program in accordance with the Act.
- BOP has submitted to Congress a report, in accordance with the Act, evaluating the availability of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) in its facilities for inmates with substance abuse problems. BOP has also screened more than 400 inmates to identify candidates for possible enrollment in MAT programs.
- BOP has issued procedures for “compassionate release” sentence reductions under 18 U.S.C. §§ 3582 and 4205(g) (BOP Policy Number 5050.50), and 22 inmates have already received sentence reductions under this program.
- BOP has issued procedures providing for participation in the Second Chance Act home confinement pilot program under 34 U.S.C. 65401(g) (BOP Operations Memorandum 001-2019), and 23 inmates are currently participating, with additional inmates currently being screened for program inclusion.
- BOP has issued procedures providing for its employees to carry and store personal weapons under 18 U.S.C. § 4050 (BOP Policy Number 5575.01, CN-1).
- BOP has identified a screening tool to implement the Act’s dyslexia screening requirement, which will enable BOP to review the prevalence of dyslexia inside the BOP inmate population.
- BOP has issued an updated advisory memo and distributed training for federal prison facilities housing female inmates regarding the Act’s requirements prohibiting the use of restraints on pregnant inmates absent extreme circumstances (Note: BOP Policy Number 5566.06, CN-1 has prohibited the use of restraints on pregnant prisoners absent extreme circumstances since August 2014).
- The U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) has issued updated procedures and forms for USMS and its contracted private detention facilities regarding the Act’s requirements prohibiting the use of restraints on pregnant inmates absent extreme circumstances.
- BOP policies and contracts provide sanitary products to female offenders in compliance with the Act.
- BOP and USMS policies and contracts comply with the Act’s requirements that prohibit certain room confinement for juvenile offenders.
- BOP offers specialized and comprehensive de-escalation training to its employees and officers in accordance with Sec. 606 of the Act. BOP has also updated its mental health awareness training regarding inmates with psychiatric disorders, and more than 14,000 BOP employees have already received the updated training.
- BOP’s Federal Prison Industries (FPI) has begun work to expand FPI’s markets under the Act. BOP is also working with the Government Accountability Office to conduct an audit of FPI.