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July 9, 2021

New Urban Instititute report reviews "Implementation of the First Step Act: The Risk and Needs Assessment System"

Julie Samuels and Emily Tiry of the Urban Institute have this notable new 23-page report about one aspect of FIRST STEP Act implementation.  Here is its abstract:

The December 2018 First Step Act sought to address many long-standing problems in the federal prison system.  This brief focuses on implementation of the act’s risk and needs assessment system, intended to incentivize people in federal prison to pursue recidivism reduction programming that can sometimes reduce their time behind bars.  We summarize that system’s key requirements and major takeaways so far; detail the progress and challenges encountered in developing and implementing the risk assessment tool, needs assessment process, and earned time credits; and offer recommendations for improvement including suggestions to expand eligibility for early release or transfer and to consider the equity of the risk assessment tool.  We conclude that the US Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) could take a more vigorous approach to implement the law and fully realize the potential of the risk and needs assessment system to reduce recidivism and time spent in federal prisons.

Are you listening, DOJ and Congress? We are getting closer to a full three years since the FIRST STEP Act became law, and its implementation remains shaky and lots more could be done to make this first step even more consequential and impactful.

July 9, 2021 at 11:01 AM | Permalink


There does not seem to be a reason for the bop to have personnel devote time to doing risk assessments.

Whether compassionate release is granted appears to be very judge and district specific. I'm obviously cynical, but I have seen nonviolent marijuana offenders with very low risk assessments be denied reduction of sentence by the bop and the compassionate release by the court. One example is a nonviolent marijuana offender over the age of 70 with a pristine prison record and a risk assessment of minus 13 who was denied. If these tools are not used, they must be considered busy work for the bop.

Posted by: beth curtis | Jul 12, 2021 2:11:17 PM

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