Skip to main content

Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen Delivers Remarks on the Implementation of the First Step Act


Washington, DC
United States

Remarks as prepared for delivery 

Good morning everyone.  I’m joined here today by Hugh Hurwitz, the Acting Director of the Bureau of Prisons, David Muhlhausen, the Director of the National Institute of Justice, and from my staff, Associate Deputy Attorney General Toni Bacon.  All are key players in coordinating across the Department of Justice to implement the First Step Act, a truly monumental effort whose progress I am pleased to report on today.

The timely, efficient and effective implementation of the First Step Act is a priority for the Department of Justice and this Administration. The Act is a bipartisan effort, passed with strong support from President Trump and leaders in Congress, who worked together to pass and sign into law this important criminal justice reform measure.  Using top-of-the-line research, people, and technology, the Department intends to implement this law fully and on time, with the goal of reducing crime, enhancing public safety, and strengthening the rule of law.

The Department has made significant strides in fully implementing the First Step Act.  Today, I am announcing three major achievements related to full implementation of this important criminal justice reform. 

First, is the reduction of sentences and release of inmates back into their communities. Since the passage of the First Step Act in December 2018, approximately 1,691 inmates convicted of crack cocaine offenses have received sentence reductions as a result of retroactive resentencing under the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010.  Additionally, nearly 250 inmates have been placed in the expanded compassionate release and home confinement programs.  And,  starting today at prisons around the country, nearly 3,100 inmates are being released from BOP custody due to the increase in good conduct time applied to reduce their sentences under the First Step Act.

Second, I am pleased to announce that the Department has re-directed $75 million in existing resources to fully fund the First Step Act in FY19.  We will continue to work with Congress and the Administration to ensure additional First Step Act funding is appropriated for FY2020 and future years.  The Attorney General and I both recently toured federal prisons and saw first-hand the tremendous value in quality programs for inmates.  The Attorney General has directed additional funding for inmate programs for FY19, including resources to expand vocational training and job readiness programs, to increase the availability of Medication Assisted Treatment, to support programs tailored to the needs of the female inmate population, and to increase education opportunities for inmates.

Third, as called for by the First Step Act, we are today announcing a new risk and needs assessment system designed to assess inmates’ risks of recidivism and to identify their individualized needs to reduce their risks of re-offending.  Through this system, they will have the opportunity to receive earned time credit in addition to good time credit and to participate in evidence-based recidivism reduction programs.  As we developed this assessment system, we listened to the experts and to a wide variety of stakeholders, including our law enforcement partners, the U.S. Pretrial Services and Probation Office, the National Institute of Corrections, think tanks, nonprofits, legal aid groups, and others.

We are especially grateful for the Independent Review Committee of six nationally prominent experts, which has worked incredibly hard to help BOP to this point, and continues to provide invaluable expertise and analysis to this process.

The new system – called the Prisoner Assessment Tool Targeting Estimated Risk and Needs, or simply “PATTERN” – will be used to screen all federal inmates to identify risk factors and identify evidence-based programs that are likely to reduce risk of recidivism and meet individualized needs, such as drug treatment, job training, trauma treatment counselling, and education.  This tool relies on predictive assessments using static and dynamic factors to gauge the risk of every inmate in our federal prisons. The PATTERN assessment achieves a higher level of predictability and surpasses common risk assessment tools currently used for correctional populations in the U.S.

While we believe this tool to predict recidivism is an improvement over the existing system, we also recognize that there is room for additional change as we continue through the implementation process and gather more data.  So we are encouraging experts, practitioners, advocates, academics, and others to comment on this report so that we can build the best and most fair tool possible.  We have scheduled several listening sessions in September to receive those comments.

Before I conclude my remarks here today, I want to take a moment to thank the team that made it happen by tomorrow’s statutory deadline, which was no small endeavor.  The Justice Department’s Bureau of Prisons, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Legal Policy, the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, and the Criminal Division’s Office of Policy and Legislation played critical roles in meeting the tight timelines imposed by Congress and carrying out the mandates of the First Step Act.

In particular, the Department has already made substantial progress by implementing new and expanded programs that address issues such as drug addiction, job skills training, and networking with private sector employers.  Already, the  BOP has developed a dyslexia screening process, a youth mentoring program,  and, has updated its procedures for managing pregnant inmates.  BOP has already trained 31,000 employees and officers in de-escalation techniques and mental health awareness.  So I want to give special thanks to Hugh and his team for their commitment and dedication to this project.

Attorney General Barr has made it clear that reducing crime and violence in American cities and rural areas continues to be a top priority of this Justice Department, and this “First Step” will help to achieve that end and ultimately increase the safety of our nation’s communities. This commitment includes strong support for federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and an aggressive approach to prosecuting federal crime. 

Finally, let me say that today’s announcement is only the “first step” of a longer journey towards the comprehensive implementation of the First Step Act, which the Department will continue to pursue vigorously.  Now I will turn over the podium to Hugh Hurwitz, the head of our prison system to talk more about how the Bureau is prepared to implement the First Step Act.

Thank you all for being here with us today.

Updated July 25, 2019