Justice Solutions of America, Inc.

Housing After Imprisonment

What does life after prison look like for these returning citizens? Specifically, will they have the safe, affordable housing they need to set them up for stable, productive reentry?

These questions are particularly pressing because around two-thirds of returning citizens are arrested within just three years of reentry. That’s because reentry can be a rocky road. Rebecca Sauter, Project Reentry Program director and co-founder at Piedmont Triad Regional Council, explains, “When you’re in prison, you don’t make choices. You’re told when to get up, when to shower, when to eat. When you get out, you have to make decisions. But many people don’t trust themselves to make those decisions.” With a lack of resources and self-confidence, it can be hard to successfully reintegrate.

Whether you were recently released from prison or you have an incarcerated loved one and you’re wondering what to expect when an inmate comes home, we’ve built this guide to help. It’s loaded with information about finding housing for returning citizens. We’ve linked to plenty of resources to help jumpstart the best life after prison:

Finding housing as a returning citizen

Finding a home after being released from prison is paramount, and maintaining that housing is equally important. As Curtis L. Sapp, case manager at Community Success Initiative, explains, “You want to wake up in a safe environment. That means housing. This is basically a repeated penalty — once those people have done their time, it should be over. But oftentimes, that’s not the case. Oftentimes, they’re penalized with lack of resources and they can’t find housing.”

The statistics support Sapp’s assertion that housing has historically been a challenge.

They show that life after prison often involves homelessness. In fact, each year, around 50,000 people go directly to a shelter after being released from prison. And people who have spent time in prison are nearly 10 times as likely to face homelessness.

All too often, this is because people return to society without a support system in place. That might mean having no family nearby or lacking information about the resources that could help them. We can’t place individuals near family, but we can make sure you have access to tools that can help with finding housing as a returning citizen. Let’s dive deeper.

What housing options are available?

Let’s quickly go over your housing options:

• Affordable housing: This housing is usually privately owned, but your rent gets significantly subsidized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). To be eligible, you generally need to be low-income, a senior, or living with a disability. If you may qualify for affordable housing, you can call (800) 569-4287 or head to the HUD housing counselor office near you.

• Public housing: Public housing is usually owned by your state or local government. You pay about 30% of your adjusted monthly income toward rent in this type of housing. Eligibility for it depends on parameters set by the government authority that owns the housing, so it’s worth finding your local Public Housing Agency (PHA) and getting more information about this option.

• Private housing: This is the most common type of housing. When you buy a house, you privately own it. Or, if you rent under a traditional lease, you rent from a private housing owner. Anyone is eligible for private housing, but it may cost more than the other options outlined here.

• Supportive housing: Supportive housing is usually owned by an organization committed to helping individuals stay permanently housed. It’s called supportive housing because in addition to a place to live, this type of housing includes services to help you. That could mean helping you build a relationship with your landlord, understand your rights as a renter, or even get access to the healthcare you need. Access to and eligibility for supportive housing depends on your area. To look for local organizations overseeing supportive housing, you can simply google “supportive housing [your city, state]”.

• Transitional housing: As the name suggests, these residences are supposed to be temporary, helping you have stable housing as you look for a permanent shelter. You might hear transitional housing called a halfway house or a residential reentry center. With this type of housing, you usually get help finding your permanent housing, finding employment, and getting healthcare. The Federal Bureau of Prisons maintains a directory of residential reentry centers (scroll down to “Nationwide RRC Contracts”) to help you find this option near you. Sauter did have a few caveats about transitional housing. She says, “There’s no oversight over transitional housing. Anyone can do it. And transitional housing is very, very hard to find.” That said, it’s still worth exploring your local options.

Resources to help returning citizens

Why do so many people struggle to stay housed as they adjust to life after prison? For starters, it’s a vicious cycle. As Sauter says, “So many of these things are interrelated. You can’t say, ‘Oh, the biggest problem is housing.’ Someone needs a job to pay for housing. But you need an address to put on an application to get a job.”

Plus, in many cases, the challenge to find stable housing stems from the fact that people aren’t aware of the resources and programs that are available to them. In this middle of this pandemic, with many local resource-providing offices closed, knowledge about and access to those resources are even more limited. And that can make reentering even more difficult.

It’s common for people to want to keep a distance from local, state, and federal programs after incarceration. We understand that it can feel like leaning on a system that very recently suppressed you. But in many cases, these tools are specifically designed to help returning citizens just like you. Tapping into them doesn’t make you beholden to a system. It just means you’re activating all of the resources you can to set yourself up for success.

Ready to get started? Here are resources worth a look.

Financial resources

When an individual reenters society, it’s common for them to feel financial strain. Without employment in place — and with the challenge of a limited résumé due to the time in prison — earning a living presents a serious hurdle. But you don’t have to face life after prison with empty pockets. Here are a few financial resources to explore:

• Housing Choice Vouchers: Previously known as Section 8, these vouchers are issued through HUD to help pay for private rental housing. Your local PHA determines your eligibility based on things like your adjusted gross income (you’ll generally need to be considered low-income) and your family’s size. Reach out to your local PHA to find out if you qualify for this voucher to help you cover the cost of rent.

• Work Opportunity Tax Credit: You can’t use this credit, but a potential employer can. Essentially, this credit reduces a company’s tax dues when they hire people from certain groups, including previously incarcerated individuals. As you’re trying to find a job, asking if employers know about this tax credit can help you incentive them to hire you, which in turn helps you earn the paycheck you need.

• Supplemental Security income benefits: If you’re over 65 or have a disability, you may be eligible to receive supplemental income from the Social Security Administration, assuming you worked and paid into Social Security for a sufficient number of years. To learn more about your eligibility, review this Benefits After Incarceration webpage.

• Food stamps: If you’re able to find gainful employment but a significant portion of your paycheck is garnished to pay for probation fees or court fines, you may qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps. This allows you to buy essential groceries without dipping into your cash reserves.

• Your Money, Your Goals toolkit: Being stably housed and able to support yourself isn’t just about finding a place to live and a job. It’s also about properly managing the money you do have. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) offers an extensive, helpful toolkit. You can go through the entire toolkit or find the part that’s most relevant to you, whether that’s paying bills or managing debt.

Wellness resources for reentry

Financial stability is an important aspect of reentry, but people adjusting to life after prison often face challenges to their mental stability or physical wellness, too. Fortunately, a number of organizations and agencies offer resources to help you lead your healthiest life after prison possible.

• Behavioral health treatment: Mental illnesses and substance abuse can keep individuals from successful reentry. If you know or suspect you live with either of these challenges, don’t wait to seek out treatment. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers a treatment locator. Just type in your ZIP code to pull up mental health, physical health, and substance abuse treatment locations around you.

• Health Care for Re-entry Veterans (HCRV): If you’re a veteran, this program can help you get referrals for health and social services and even short-term case management should you need extra support. Scroll down on that page to find your state HRCV specialist contact. Email them an explanation of the healthcare you need to start the process.

• RxAssist: Having trouble paying for the medication you need? Many pharmaceutical companies offer assistance programs. Type your medication’s name into RxAssist, click the drug name, and click “Program Website” to get directed to the pharmaceutical company’s program so you can get help paying for your medication.

Other reentry programs and resources to check out

But wait, there’s more. In our research, we found a handful of other resources that may prove useful to you.

• Your parole or probation officer: Sauter says your parole or probation officer can actually be a boon for you. “So many people fight them because they’re trying to get away from that system, but that individual can be your link to resources,” she explains. “Their job is to help reconnect you with society — so work with them. Make them do their job.”

• CareerOneStop: The U.S. Department of Labor sponsors CareerOneStop, a useful resource for anyone looking for employment. Type your ZIP code in to find your closest office (usually an America’s Job Center office). There, you’ll have access to job seeker services like skills trainings, résumé review, job listings, and more.

• Reentry Services Directory: The National Reentry Resource Center has an extensive nationwide directory of reentry resources. Click your state to pull up a list of state and local agencies, nonprofits, and other groups that can help you reenter successfully.

• Office of Justice Programs Reentry Resource Center: The federal government has put together a robust resource page that links to resources you can use for housing, employment training, mental healthcare, and more.

Adjusting to Life After Prison

Because we’re living in the middle of a pandemic that’s turned our lives on their heads, you probably feel like everything has changed even if you were only imprisoned a short time. If you’ve been incarcerated for years, the transition is even starker.

Adjusting to life after prison can be difficult, but it’s also a chance for an entirely new beginning. Few people get such a clean break from their life before and their life now. It’s an opportunity to do everything differently if you want to.

And we’ve lined up some tools that can help you start off on the right foot.

Ways to prepare for reentry

If you’re about to be released or just reentered society, add these to-dos to your list:

• Begin a job search: Finding and maintaining stable housing often comes down to earning an income. First things first, update your résumé using these tips. Using a free résumé template can make things easier, too. Then, make a list of jobs and companies that interest you. Spend some time searching for open positions in your area that align with those interests. If you can, find someone who’s willing to practice interviewing with you. Then, apply for jobs. As you do, it’s important to be honest about your criminal record. For help talking about it, review this guide from CareerOneStop. And if you want to apply with a company that’s committed to hiring people with a criminal record, check out this list.

• Look for ways to prove you’re a good tenant. Sauter explains that when her organization asked landlords about renting to previously incarcerated individuals, “a lot of landlords were saying it’s not necessarily the money that’s their main consideration. It’s that you take care of the property and recognize that you’re a neighbor and need to contribute to the community. We asked landlords, ‘Would it be helpful if the individual was part of a program that helped to develop them and included classes on how to be a good renter?’ And they said yes.” If you can showcase a history of good rental maintenance or get referrals from past landlords, it will go a long way toward helping you secure housing.

• Get involved in the community: While some people make friends from chance meetings on the street and land jobs from online listings, it’s a lot easier to do these things within the network of people you know. Find local organizations you care about — whether it’s a religious group, a food bank, a volunteer opportunity, a sports league, or something else — and start participating. Meeting new people helps you forge relationships. You’ll make friends and connections that can help stabilize your reentry.

• Join a support group: You shouldn’t have to go through reentry alone, and you certainly don’t have to. Do some internet searching to find a support group in your area. Many local organizations host these groups on a weekly basis. Attending your first group meeting might feel awkward, but you’ll get people around you who understand what you’re going through and can help you navigate the road ahead.

• Secure housing: Finding housing is often one of the most foundational pieces in successful reentry. Review the housing options we listed earlier in this guide to get an idea of which one might be right for you, and don’t hesitate to reach out to your local PHA to explore your options. Also, if you’ll be categorized as low-income, look into grants and charities to help with the expense of moving in and getting settled.

• Keep asking: If you know a resource or program could help you, keep pursuing it. “As far as state and federal resources, you have to do your research,” Sapp says. “You can’t just let a door being closed in your face deter you. You need to keep working at it.”

Evaluate your attitude: Sauter says, “A lot of [incarcerated individuals] come out ill-prepared. They may have an entitled or unrealistic attitude that gets in their way. You can’t think, ‘I’ve done my time and I’m owed this.’ And you can’t be defeated and think, ‘I’m a felon. No one will give me anything.’ It’s really about trying to get people out of their own head.”

Helping a loved one adjust after incarceration

If someone you care about is about to be released, you’re probably wondering what to expect when an inmate comes home. More importantly, you’re probably wondering what you can do to help them.

Your desire to help will make a difference. “Family support is crucial. You can tell by the results of those who have a committed and supportive family,” Sapp says.

Here are some tips to help your returning citizen:

• Research resources: In this guide, we’ve linked to a number of tools to find local, state, and federal resources that can help your loved one. Having a list of resources they can use can help them feel empowered to start life after prison well.

• Understand their probation and parole: Take the time to educate yourself on the regulations your loved one will live under for a while. It can be helpful to develop a relationship with their parole officer. Knowing these rules can ensure you don’t make anything challenging for the person you’re trying to support, like planning a vacation to a location outside state lines.

Help them with their job search: You can help your returning citizen feel confident finding employment. Review their résumé and practice interviewing with them. Also, when interviews get scheduled, help them prepare leading up to it and stay involved on the day of the interview to make sure they show up on time.

• Come up with a plan: Sapp says, “If someone has some structure that they can look forward to on release, it helps.” Working with your loved one, set goals for the period immediately following their return home. Do you want to contribute to your savings account? Do you want to find them full-time employment within a certain number of months? Setting goals like these — and planning steps to reach them — helps you stay on the same page while offering the support your returnee needs.

• Give them grace: It’s important to be patient with your loved one. “Their behavior might seem unusual to you,” Sauter says. “Don’t touch their belongings, for starters. If they seem like they’re isolating themselves, you have to give them that time. Don’t take it personally.”

Whether you’re the returning citizen or you’re welcoming a loved one home, these resources should help set you up for a productive, stably housed life after prison.

Biden to Phase Out Privately Run Prisons

by Kevin Bliss

Within the first six days of office President Biden signed the ‘‘First Step’’ executive order preventing the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) from renewing any of its contracts with private companies to run its prisons. Activists say the order was nothing more than a token gesture and should have included the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Biden campaigned on a platform promising to address problems in the corrections system. He said he intended to crack down on police and prosecutorial misconduct, reduce prison population and increase probation efforts, improve immigration conditions, and stop profiting off of prison privatization. He said he would ‘‘make clear that the federal government should not use private facilities for any detention, including detention of undocumented immigrants.

He had a ‘‘Day One’’ agenda of eliminating the Migrant Protection Protocols or ‘‘Remain in Mexico’’ policy, defining citizenship procedures to assist asylum seekers, and create a task force to reunite separated families. Once in office, he signed the United States Citizenship Act of 2021, largely making good on his promises. He signed orders ending the Muslim ban, fortifying protections for DREAMers, stopping construction on the border wall, and putting a 100-day hold on deportation.

Still, activists said that this was not enough. Opposition has reduced the effectiveness of many of his reforms. A Trump-appointed federal judge blocked Biden’s 100-day hold on deportations, Republicans filibustered the president’s Department of Homeland Security nominee. Alejandro Mayorkas was finally confirmed  as secretary February 2, 2021.

On January 26, Biden signed the ‘‘First Step’’ executive order preventing the BOP from renewing any contract with a private company to run its prisons. He said it was a ‘‘first step’’ in stopping private industries from profiting off ‘‘incarceration that is less humane and less safe.’’

Privatization of prisons began in the 1800s and became popular right after the Civil War. But the modern era was ushered in with mass incarceration policies of the 1980s brought about by the “War on Drugs.” It has since turned into a billion-dollar industry where profits are made by maintaining a high population of prisoners and cutting as many costs as possible. This has translated to overcrowded and inhumane living conditions. Statistics show that private prisons see an increased rate of assaults (both on other prisoners and staff), use of force incidents, and lock downs.

There are currently 11 private prisons in the BOP. The Trump administration permitted the Bureau to enter into more private prison contracts than previously allowed. The Courthouse News Service said he doubled the revenues of CoreCivic and the GEO Group, two of the largest private prison industries in the United States.

Senior advocacy and policy counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Naureen Shah said these groups make a business off of profiting from human suffering. ‘‘These private prison companies have incentive to minimize their costs at the disregard of human suffering,’’ she said, ‘‘and ICE just gets to point their fingers back at private prison companies, saying, well it’s not us, it’s them. That’s sickening.’’

But, activists said that President Biden’s executive order was no more than a symbolic act, it did not go far enough nor focus on the bureau more greatly affected by the abuses inherent in privatization. According to the Associated Press, out of the 152,000 prisoners in the federal BOP today, only about 14,000 of them are housed in private prisons. Although that is down from the 27,000 the Bureau of Justice Statistics recorded in 2019, it is still only 0.7% of the total 2,000,000 people incarcerated in the United States.

Critics say President Biden should have taken this opportunity to enforce the same restrictions on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Private prisons hold 75% of all DHS detention contracts, and ICE has detained 50,000 to 56,000 people daily, according to a 2020 ACLU report, 81% of them in private-run facilities.

News outlet The Daily Beast said that to organizations that have fought for immigrant rights, not including the entire carceral system in this order was unconscionable. ‘‘Whether called ‘jail,’ ‘prison,’ or ‘detection center,’ these systems share the same unjust design: to incarcerate people of color, profit off of them, and strip them of their dignity,’’ stated Silky Shah, executive director of Detention Watch Network. ‘‘The Biden administration must now address the private prison industry’s toxic relationship with the Department of Homeland Security.’’

Immigration detention is not even a criminal commitment. It is a civil one and activists believe it is unwarranted, abusive, and discriminatory. Laura Rivera, immigration attorney for Southern Poverty Law Center’s Action Fund and director of its Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative said, ‘‘It’s unacceptable for the Biden-Harris administration to exclude immigrant prisons from today’s executive order. The very concept of detaining immigrants is rotten to its core. This is an irredeemable, profit-driven racket that the Biden-Harris administration must address.’’

Banning private prison contract renewals will not release anyone from prison early, and it will be a gradual closing of private-run facilities. Prisoners will be able to be moved to another facility before the one they are in closes. ‘‘They’ll have time to transfer these people from private facilities to non-private ones,’’’ said Fordham University School of Law professor John Pfaff. ‘‘It doesn’t necessarily mean a shrinking of the footprint of prisons, it just means a transfer from privates to the public.’’

At least BOP prisoners will be able to be moved. In facilities that house both BOP prisoners and ICE detainees, the prisoners will be moved leaving the detainees living in the same housing conditions found ‘‘inhumane’’ for prisoners.

GEO Group spokesperson Pablo Paez said the president failed to consider the economic impact this would have on surrounding communities. He called it a ‘‘solution in search of a problem.’’ The BOP had already decided not to renew several of their contracts with private prisons prior to the order.

‘‘[The] executive order merely represents a political statement, which could carry serious negative unintended consequences, including the loss of hundreds of jobs and negative economic impact for the communities where our facilities are located, which are already struggling due to the Covid pandemic,’’ he said.

Moreover, the order does not address the other privatized aspects of prisons. Director of the ACLU’s National Prison Project David Fathi said it is just a start at curtailing the ‘‘insidious practice’’ of privatization. Other areas still need addressing such as private health care in prisons, which Fathi says has been ‘‘the source of much abuse and malfeasance in recent years.’’

Reform advocates concerns that DHS and ICE were not included in this order have been addressed by White House staffers. Although no similar order was planned as of January 26, the two news sources The Daily Beast and POLITICO reported that the White House said it was now considering drafting an order of the same nature for the two bureaus.

Critics also contend that this bill does even begin to address myriad other problems that plague our criminal justice system. Pfaff called it a ‘‘symbolic’’ act. He stated that he hoped this order did not give the false impression that this would solved the issues of profiting from prisons. ‘‘Saying we’re taking the profit out of prisons by shutting down the private facilities ignores the massive amount of [financial incentives] on the public side,’’ he said.

Prison systems can spend up to two-thirds of their budget on such things as salaries, overtime, and benefits. ‘‘That is very much a form of profit that encourages [legislators] to lobby aggressively to keep their prisons open. When you engage in a symbolic act, which [this order] mostly is, you have to make sure the symbolism doesn’t actually undermine the broader message that you need to convey.’’

Holly Harris, executive director of the bipartisan advocacy group Justice Action Network, told Time the order was an ‘‘important and critical step in right-sizing our justice system.’’

‘‘I get that advocates are frustrated, and I’m grateful that there are so many people out that’s pushing for more,’’ she said. Nonetheless, she added that she believed Biden had plans to accomplish a whole lot more. ‘‘For me, I’m willing to extend some grace on day six to this new administration.’’

Sources:,,, The Daily Beast

By Sean R. Francis, MS
Justice Solutions of America, Inc.
Currently, there are over 154,000 inmates in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons ( BOP)....


By Sean R. Francis, MS


Justice Solutions of America, Inc. 

Currently, there are over 154,000 inmates in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons ( BOP). The vast majority of these inmates suffer from at least one mental health diagnosis. To fulfill the primary mission of the BOP, which is the protection of the public, BOP has implemented various mental health programs to assist inmates who struggle with mental health difficulties. This paper will discuss the various treatment options available to inmates who suffer from substance abuse issues and sexual offending issues. This paper will also address the various ways in which forensic psychologists play a vital role in the execution of these programs and treatment of the inmates.

I. Why We Need Drug Abuse Education in the Bureau of Prisons
In the early 1970’s President Richard Nixon declared a “War on Drugs.” This declaration ushered in new law enforcement tools, such as mandatory minimum sentencing and “no- knock warrants”, to combat the flood of illegal drugs entering the United States ( Sirin, 2011).  Many believed that this was a measure aimed at poverty stricken drug addicts and offenders, many of whom were black. One of Nixon’s top aids, John Ehrlichman, would admit years later that Nixon viewed black people as an enemy (Sirin, 2011).
However, it would not be until the 1980’s and the Regan era that the “War on Drugs” really got ramped up. The United States would embrace an almost hysterical belief on the harms of illegal drugs. This was spearheaded by First Lady Nancy Regan’s “Just Say No” campaign. This resulted in draconian laws, the abolition of parole in the federal system, the federal sentencing guidelines being passed and a zero tolerance policy with regard to drug abusers and suppliers ( Sirin, 2011)

These laws largely and unjustly targeted the black community. The biggest example of this was the disparity between crack cocaine and powder ( Sirin, 2011).  Crack was treated as a substance that was vastly more dangerous and addictive than powder cocaine. Therefore, the law treated crack as 100 times worse than powder cocaine. The problem with this is that crack was cheaper to produce than pure powder cocaine. Thus, it was popular in many poverty stricken black communities while powder cocaine was popular with the white community. 5 grams of crack cocaine would result in a 5 year mandatory minimum. Drug offenders were now serving more time than rapists and murderers. 

The result of such actions was an explosion in the number of federal offenders in the Bureau of Prisons. In 1981 the federal prison population was 26,313 ( However, by the time President Regan left office the population had grown to 57,762 ( This is an over 60 percent increase and was largely a result of the “War on Drugs.” 

The next major increase in the federal prison population due to drugs would come during the Clinton years. Clinton would embrace many of the policies of his republican predecessors. He would also reject a proposal to end the disparity between crack and powder cocaine. Clinton would leave office with a federal prison population of 145,125 inmates ( 

In response to the growing number of drug offenders the Bureau of Prisons started a massive expansion of it’s substance abuse treatment programs during the 1980’s. In 1988 then BOP director Michael Quinlin created the first residential drug abuse treatment program ( RDAP)
( Pelissier, et al, 2001).  Congress also amended 18 USC § 3621 to allow the Bureau of Prisons to grant an offender up to 12 months off of their prison sentence for successful participation in the 500 hour residential drug program ( Pelissier, et al, 2001).
Prior to the passage of the First Step Act in 2018 the 500 hour residential drug program was the only program that allowed offenders to get time off of their sentence. All federal offenders must serve 85 percent of their sentence.
II. Residential Drug Abuse Treatment Program
(A). The residential drug treatment program is an intensive 500-hour substance abuse program
( It has been established at specific federal institutions throughout the nation so that all security levels may participate. Currently there are 90 RDAP programs at 77 BOP institutions throughout the nation. Participation is voluntary and successful completion may result in up to 18 months being deducted from an inmate’s sentence (

Once an inmate has 30 months or less remaining on their sentence, they may submit themselves for placement in RDAP (Ellis, Bussert, 2016).It is not certain that an offender will be accepted into the program and if they are it is not certain they will receive time off their sentence. The inmate must have a verifiable substance abuse issue. Often documents by the inmate’s pre-sentence report (Ellis, Bussert, 2016).

The inmate usually must be recommended to participate in RDAP by their sentencing judge (Ellis, Bussert, 2016). Also, only offenders with certain convictions will qualify for time off of their sentence. Violent offenders, sex offenders and those who have active detainers will not be eligible for the time off. 

Once an offender submits a request for placement in RDAP the first step is to meet with a member of the psychological staff at the inmate’s current institution (Ellis, Bussert, 2016).  The psychologist will review the inmates file, interview the inmate and conduct an evaluation that will result in a recommendation on RDAP placement. Because all inmates want time off their sentence the BOP psychological staff are instrumental in determining who is truly in need of these services and who is simply malingering in attempts to go home sooner. 

Once an inmate is approved for RDAP they are re-designated to an institution with the program and transferred. When the inmate reaches their new institution, they are housed in a unit that is solely dedicated to the RDAP program (Ellis, Bussert, 2016). Only program participants are housed in these units and, while a corrections officer does staff the unit for security, the unit is run by the forensic psychological staff of the RDAP. The psychological staff have offices in the housing units and control every aspect of the unit, creating a treatment milieu (Ellis, Bussert, 2016).

During business hours the inmates will participate in a half day of programing. There are two programs, the AM & PM. Lunchtime being the end of the AM and the beginning of the PM. The treatment program is run by forensic psychologists and interns. The Cognitive Behavioral Therapeutic method is used for RDAP (Ellis, Bussert, 2016). Therapists work directly with offenders 5 days a week. Offenders have a one-on-one therapist assigned to them for individual therapy and assistance (Ellis, Bussert, 2016). They will also participate in process groups, relapse prevention and other groups dealing with substance abuse issues (Ellis, Bussert, 2016).

As an offender gets close to release their one-on-one therapist will work with the offender, their family and U.S. Probation to help the offender smoothly transition from incarceration to society. The therapist remains a resource even once the offender is released. Offenders often remain in contact with their one on one.

(B). Does participation in treatment impact an inmate’s behavior while in prison?
Some studies have found that inmates who participate in prison-based drug treatment programs have a 45 percent lower misconduct rate than inmates who are not programing (Welsh, et al, 2007). When dealing with the RDAP program inmates know that misbehavior will not be taken lightly by the therapeutic team. RDAP participants are supposed to hold themselves to a higher standard than other inmates. Misbehavior can result in loss of privileges, loss of time off their sentence if they complete the program or even expulsion from the program.
Langan & Pelissier, (2002 ) conducted a study of 600 inmates who completed the federal RDAP program compared to 451 inmates who had not completed the program but had a history of substance abuse.  They found that the inmates who had completed the RDAP program had a “significantly reduction” in overall institutional misconduct. Similar results have been reported in many studies conducted in state prisons (Welsh, et al, 2007).

(C ). Does prison-based drug treatment work?
Pelissier, et al, (2001) found that only 12.5 percent of RDAP graduates were re-arrested within the first six months of release. Inmates who participated in drug treatment while in prison were found to be 73 percent less likely to be re-arrested than non-treated inmates ( Pelissier, et al, 2001). Furthermore, it has been found that offenders who complete prison- based drug treatment have a greater chance of successfully completing their post incarceration probation
( Pelissier, et al, 2001). 

This is vital because in today’s world almost all offenders have parole or probation after the completion of their sentence of incarceration. The days of just walking out free and clear are mostly over. It has been estimated that close to 45 percent of all offenders in prisons are now probation and parole violators ( Many offenders on probation and parole have terms and conditions that make actions legal for society in general illegal for them. Drinking alcohol and using marijuana is one such example. In fact, substance abuse violations are often pitfalls for such offenders. The fact that most who participate in prison-based drug treatment do not violate their probation or parole is a positive sign and clear proof that these programs are working. 

(D). What role does a forensic psychologist play in the RDAP program?
Forensic psychologists are the backbone of the RDAP program. They play a vital role in every step of the inmate’s progression. As was mentioned above, the first step in an inmate’s journey to RDAP is an evaluation by the psychological staff at the inmate’s parent institution. This requires the psychologist to screen the inmate to weed out those who may be malingering in attempts of admission to the program for time off their sentence ( Ellis, & Bussert, 2016).

Forensic psychologists continually evaluate the inmates who are in the RDAP program and their progression. They developed and run the groups, as well as the program itself. The forensic psychologists work with U.S. Probation, the offender and their families to effectuate a smooth transition from incarceration to freedom. 

When an inmate comes to prison they are placed into the custody and care of the correctional officers and the warden. However, when an inmate is placed in the RDAP program the rules are different. Those inmates are not in the care of the corrections officers. They are in the care of the forensic psychologists. Every aspect of the inmate’s life is dictated by security and therapy, including discipline. This is vastly different from most other inmates. 

III. Non- Residential Drug Abuse Treatment
The non -residential drug treatment program is a comprehensive 12-week program utilizing Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy ( CBT) in a group setting ( The program is voluntary and an inmate’s release date is not impacted by their choice to participate or not to participate ( Generally, this program is for offenders who have short sentences and do not meet the criteria for the more intensive residential drug treatment program (

However, offenders who have tested positive for drugs while incarcerated may also be recommended to take this program by their unit team. Also, those who will be entering the RDAP program are often required to complete the non-residential drug abuse program prior to their admission if time permits. For offenders in the non-residential program forensic and staff psychologists, as well as interns,  work with offenders on issues such as problem solving, rational thinking and communication skills. 

IV. Residential Sex Offender Treatment Program ( RSOTP)
This program is for inmates with a high risk for re-offense and is offered at two separate locations. Participation is completely voluntary. The program consists of residential therapeutic treatment lasting 12-18 months ( Jones, et al, 2006). Much like the RDAP program, an offender must have between 18-30 months remaining on their sentence to be accepted into the program. The offenders also must have a conviction for or history of sexual offending ( Jones, et al, 2006). 

The role of a forensic psychologist in BOP sex offender treatment is significant. Once an offender applies for admission to the RSOTP the forensic psychologist must evaluate the offender to determine if they would be a good fit for the program and if they will be able to benefit from it ( Jones, et al, 2006).  Criteria such as whether an offender has sufficient intellectual ability to participate in psychotherapy and if there is a mental illness that would preclude program participation are considered by the clinician ( Jones, et al, 2006).  Additionally, offenders are evaluated for acceptance of responsibility, prior treatment failure and psychopathy ( Jones, et al, 2006).

(B). Does sex offender treatment work?
There is some evidence that suggests that sex offender treatment does work. Sexual offenders who have received treatment had only a 9 percent re-arrest rate compared to untreated offenders who had a 12 percent re-arrest rate. Furthermore, studies have shown that CBT therapy was the most effective form of treatment for sexual offenders (Polizzi, et al, 1999). 

More recent studies have supported the finding that sex offender treatment reduces recidivism. Olver, et al ( 2020) found that treatment reduced recidivism among high-risk offenders by as much as 76-81 percent and among medium risk offenders by 65 – 75 percent. Importantly, this study showed that rates of reoffence among those with no treatment was significantly higher than offenders who had been treated ( Olver, et al, 2020). 

©. Should offenders participate in sex offender treatment?
While treatment for sex offenders is often successful at reducing recidivism getting offenders to participate is difficult as they often face a “treatment paradox”. While many sex offenders have a desire to seek treatment and never re-offend. There is a real question of whether the treatment providers have the offender’s best interest in mind. Offenders are often forced to waive all confidentiality which makes treatment providers de facto law enforcement officers and results in offenders facing increased legal jeopardy for their admissions in treatment (Miller, 2010), ( Strecker, 2011). 

Many treatment programs require complete “acceptance of responsibility.” The treatment providers often operate on the assumption that the offenders have committed more crimes than they have been caught for. Therefore, as a measure of treatment progress offenders are often required to complete victims lists. These lists are where an offender can detail for treatment providers crime’s they committed that they have not been caught for. While this may be a well -intentioned treatment method, with the lack of confidentiality it often is nothing more than a trap which results in additional charges for the offenders. This has resulted in attorneys advising clients to refuse to participate in sex offender treatment. Federal judges have even found that clinicians in the BOP sex offender treatment program have pressured offenders to make victims up in order to be seen as “making treatment progress” so they would not be expelled from the program. 

“The Butner Study’s sample population consisted of incarcerated individuals participating in a sexual offender treatment program at a federal correctional institution. Tr. at 29. As Rogers testified, the program is “highly coercive.” Id. Unless offenders continue to admit to further sexual crimes, whether or not they actually committed those crimes, the offenders are discharged from the program.” United States v. Johnson, 588 F. Supp. 2d 997, 1006 (S.D. Iowa 2008).

Due to the lack of confidentiality and removal of statutes of limitations on most sex crimes it is hard to conclude that any sex offender should participate in a prison based or community- based sex offender treatment program.
V. Non- Residential Sex Offender Treatment Program
Inmates who do not have enough time to complete the residential sex offender treatment program or who are not considered “high risk” can still participate in sex offender treatment. Multiple institutions throughout the BOP offer non-residential sex offender treatment. These programs typically take 9-12 months to complete ( Offenders learn skills to understand their past offenses and reduce their chances of relapse. 

Forensic psychologists play an important role in the non-residential sex offender treatment program as well. They must screen the offender to ensure they meet the criteria for the program. This criterion requires the offender to have a sexual offense history and to be willing to participate. The forensic psychologist will also continually evaluate the offender, including a psychosexual evaluation upon admission to then program.  
However, many of the concerns mentioned above apply fully to the non-residential program as well. Attorneys typically advise their clients to avoid all prison-based sex offender treatment in my expeirance. 

Unfortunately, there are not many prison based therapeutic treatment programs. Prisons, despite being called Departments of Corrections, really do very little to correct the behavior of the offenders they keep. However, some exceptions do exist, and the Bureau of Prison’s drug treatment programs and sexual offender treatment programs are two such examples.
These programs and their success are important to the field of forensic psychology because we are a nation whose prisons are bursting at the seams. Therefore, if we can use psychology to develop programing that reduces recidivism, we are not only protecting society, but we may also change the way policy makers look at drug and sexual offenders. As we know, the laws on the books that deal with many of these offenders are old, draconian and make little sense. But we also know that the law follows psychology ( Gomberg, 2018). So, if programs like these can succeed, hopefully, we can see some changes in the laws recognizing what psychology already knows. That these offenders have an illness and can have a productive and law -abiding life with the right treatment.

Ellis, A., & Bussert, T. A. (2016). Residential drug abuse treatment program (RDAP).Criminal         Justice, 30(4), 30-33.
Gomberg, L. (2018). Forensic psychology 101 (Ser. Psych 101 series). Springer Publishing Company, LLC. INSERT-MISSING-URL.
Jones, N., Pelissier, B., & Klein-Saffran, J. (2006). Predicting Sex Offender Treatment Entry Among Individuals Convicted of Sexual Offense Crimes. Sexual Abuse, 18(1), 83–98.
Langan, N., & Pelissier, B. (2002). The effect of drug treatment on inmate misconduct in federal         prisons. Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, 34(2), 21–30.
Miller, J. A. (2010). Sex offender civil commitment: the treatment paradox. California Law Review, 98(6), 2093–2093.
Olver, M. E., Marshall, L. E., Marshall, W. L., & Nicholaichuk, T. P. (2020). A Long-Term Outcome Assessment of the Effects on Subsequent Reoffense Rates of a Prison-Based CBT /RNR Sex Offender Treatment Program With Strength-Based Elements. Sexual
Abuse, 32(2), 127–153.  
Pelissier, B., Wallace, S., O’Neil, J. A., & Gaes, G. G. (2001). Federal prison residential drug treatment reduces substance use and arrests after release. The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 27(2), 315–337.
Pelissier, B. (2007). Treatment retention in a prison-based residential sex offender treatment program. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 19(4), 333–346.
Polizzi, D. M., MacKenzie, D. L., & Hickman, L. J. (1999). What Works in Adult Sex Offender Treatment? A Review of Prison-and Non-Prison-Based Treatment Programs. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 43(3), 357–374.
Sirin, C. V. (2011). From nixon’s war on drugs to obama’s drug policies today: presidential p progress in addressing racial injustices and disparities. Race, Gender & Class, 18(3-4), 8 82–99.
Strecker, D. R. (2011). Sex offender treatment in prisons and the self-incrimination privilege: how should courts approach obligatory, un-immunized admissions of guilt and the risk of longer incarceration? St. John’s Law Review, 85(4), 1557–1594.
Welsh, W., Mcgrain, P., Salamatin, N., & Zajac, G. (2007). Effects of prison drug treatment on inmate misconduct. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 34(5), 600–615.
United States v. Johnson, 588 F. Supp. 2d 997, 1006 (S.D. Iowa 2008)

By Sean R. Francis, MS
Justice Solutions of America, Inc.
It has been estimated that one in seven inmates in Western countries suffers from some form...


By Sean R. Francis, MS


Justice Solutions of America, Inc. 



It has been estimated that one in seven inmates in Western countries suffers from some form of mental illness ( Goff, et al, 2007). There is also significant evidence that many if not most prison inmates have suffered some form of abuse or neglect as children. Therefore, the prevalence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in the inmate population is likely much higher than in the general population.

Furthermore, older inmates  expeirance significantly higher rates of mental health conditions such as depression, mania and PTSD ( Flatt, et al, 2017). Older adults in the criminal justice system may be at an even greater risk for PTSD due to the high prevalence of early-life trauma and the impact of lifelong stress on this population. According to the cumulative advantage/ disadvantage theory, the cumulative effects of experiencing trauma and stressful events over the life course may heighten the risk for poor physical and mental health in later life. It may also increase the risk for subsequent and reoccurring health problems and social disadvantages (poor health, disability, poverty, home- lessness, discrimination, and violent trauma) over the life course. Criminal justice-involved older adults may be more likely to have experienced several traumatic and stressful life events ( Flatt, et al, 2017). 

However, people facing difficulties from post-traumatic stress do have options to help them deal with these issues. One treatment option that is showing promise is group therapy. While this method is not recognized as a “first line” treatment option by the professional community it is becoming increasingly relied upon in settings, like in the Veterans Administration, where the rate of PTSD among patients is very high (Sloan, et al, 2012). 

Group therapy has been found to help patients interact with others who have gone through a similar expeirance. This allows the group to support each other and allows the patient to begin to trust others and not socially isolate (Sloan, et al, 2012). Generally, there are three types of group therapy treatment models, psychodynamic, interpersonal and cognitive behavioral therapy (Sloan, et al, 2012). 

Another treatment model that has been successful with PTSD patients is the prolonged exposure method. Specifically, this has been highly effective for victims of assault related PTSD (Zoellner, et al, 2003). Prolonged exposure therapy involves the patient confronting their traumatic memory or memories (Zoellner, et al, 2003). The client exposes themselves to situations that they are avoiding due to trauma. This can include in vivo exposure and imaginal exposure (Zoellner, et al, 2003). 

Medication is also used as a treatment method quite frequently. Often patients suffering from PTSD also suffer from depression and anxiety disorders (Tetyana, 2017). Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) medication has proven useful in treating these issues and helping those suffering from PTSD overall. Additionally, antipsychotic and benzodiazepines medication has been found to be useful in treating patients suffering from PTSD. Whether medication is appropriate or not depends on the patient’s motivation, preference and severity of symptoms (Tetyana, 2017). 

Medication is often used in conjunction with a treatment method like eye movement desensitization and reprocessing ( EMDR). This treatment method is often used for combat veterans. EMDR attempts to reprocess the traumatic event or events that cause negative thoughts and feelings. The patient will focus on the traumatic event while moving their eyes back and forth. The goal of EMDR is to reduce the stress and trauma. Over time the traumatic memories should start to fade (Tetyana, 2017). 

Cognitive therapy is a huge treatment model used for multiple psychological issues including PTSD. The goal of this treatment model is to identify thinking errors and correct them (Tetyana, 2017). CT therapy is used for managing traumatic memories and the persons perception of the world around them (Tetyana, 2017). This treatment model is viewed as time sensitive. Often clients are recommended to attend treatment weekly while engaged in this process (Tetyana, 2017). 

In conclusion, post-traumatic stress disorder is a prevalent mental illness in our society and in our prisons. However, multiple treatment methods exist that can help control the symptoms and offer people relief.

Sloan, D. M., Bovin, M. J., & Schnurr, P. P. (2012). Review of group treatment for ptsd. Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development, 49(5), 689–701.
(2013). Living with PTSD [Video file]. Healthily. Retrieved October 25, 2020, from Kanopy.
Zoellner, L. A., Feeny, N. C., Cochran, B., & Pruitt, L. (2003). Treatment choice for
ptsd. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 41(8), 879–886. 7967(02)00100-6
Tetyana, S. (2017). Effectiveness of ptsd treatments for military service members and veterans. Psihosomatična Medicina Ta Zagalʹna Praktika, 2.
Goff, A., Rose, E., Rose, S., & Purves, D. (2007). Does ptsd occur in sentenced prison populations? a systematic literature review. Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health, 17(3), 152–162.
Flatt, J. D., Williams, B. A., Barnes, D., Goldenson, J., & Ahalt, C. (2017). Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms and associated health and social vulnerabilities in older jail inmates. Aging & Mental Health, 21(10), 1106–1112.

By Sean R. Francis, MS
Justice Solutions of America, Inc.
The link between traumatic brain injuries ( TBI ) and criminal...


By Sean R. Francis, MS


Justice Solutions of America, Inc. 


The link between traumatic brain injuries ( TBI ) and criminal behavior can no longer be ignored or disputed. Inmates in America’s prisons who have suffered a TBI at some point in their life are overrepresented. Some studies have found that as many as 60 percent of inmates have suffered a TBI at some point in their lifetime. ( Nagele, Vaccaro, Schmidt., & Keating, 2018).

1. What are the implications of a link between traumatic brain injury and criminal behavior?
The implications of a link between TBI’s and criminal behavior are that people who have no control over their behavior, due to suffering a severe head injury, will likely end up in the criminal justice system.  Should they go to prison it is unlikely they will get the medical or mental health care they need and will deteriorate and have no realistic chance of re-integrating into society when their sentence is complete.
Lane, St. Pierre, Lauterbach, & Koliatsos, (2017). studied four individuals who ended up in the criminal justice system and had suffered TBI’s. The similarities between them was striking. Three of the subjects were in their mid to late 30’s and one subject was in his early 20’s. Three of the subjects had suffered TBI’s as a result of motor vehicle accidents. Two subjects suffered more than one TBI. (Lane, St. Pierre, Lauterbach, & Koliatsos, 2017). It appears that none of the subjects have ever been incarcerated prior to suffering a TBI.
Yet, after suffering a TBI all of the subjects of this study acted in ways that they had not acted prior to suffering the injury. Specifically, all of these subjects acted out violently and aggressively towards hospital staff and family members. They verbally abused staff and family and assaulted them. One subject even started to set fires. Additionally, some subjects were sexually inappropriate with female staff members at the hospital that they were being treated at.  (Lane, St. Pierre, Lauterbach, & Koliatsos, 2017). These actions resulted in petitions being filed for involuntary hospitalization and interactions with law enforcement, including arrest. (Lane, St. Pierre, Lauterbach, & Koliatsos, 2017)
Considering this research, the American criminal justice system must take a fresh look at the nexus between TBI’s and criminal behavior. If the research cited above is accurate, we have a true mental health, medical and moral crisis unfolding in our nation’s prisons.
Currently, only a person who is “insane” at the time they committed their criminal offense may be found not responsible for the crime. Insanity is defined as not knowing the difference between right and wrong due to severe mental disease or defect and thus not having the mens rea or “guilty mind.” 18 U.S.C § 17 (a). However, what if the United States has a vast number of offenders who do realize the difference between right and wrong but have no volitional control due to suffering a TBI and cannot control their behavior? They certainly do not meet the legal definition of insanity…..but should they be held criminally responsible for their actions and locked away in prison? 

2. Is incarceration for individuals with TBI an effective method of rehabilitation? Make a concise but logical argument for or against incarceration of individuals who engage in criminal behaviors with a TBI?
Incarceration is not an effective method of rehabilitation for individuals with TBI. To address this question, it must first be pointed out that rehabilitation in prisons is, for the most part nonexistent. The concept was widely abandoned in the mid 1970’s as crime exploded. This ushered in the era of long and unforgiving prison sentences. (, (Phelps 2011).
To the extent that rehabilitation in a correctional institution occurs, the vast majority of programing does not address the unique challenges that inmates with TBI’s will face. Programing focuses mostly on drug offenders and sexual offenders. All prison systems and even some county jails now have programing to assist these type of offenders with their issues. There is also some programing that focus on job skills such as HVAC and electrical training. In over ten years working inside prisons I have never seen programs that address the unique challenges offenders with TBI’s face. Often these inmates are lumped into the “mentally ill” category. Most prisons deal with this population through medication that will tranquilize them and, when needed, force.
While there are prison hospitals in every system, state and federal, these facilities are designed to treat mental illness or physical ailments such as cancer, injury and heart disease. Rarely is TBI recognized for what it is inside of a prison. Rather, the inmate is labeled as “problematic” and dealt with accordingly. The medical staff in correctional institutions often lack the complex medical background to address TBI related issues. The cost of sending the offender for care outside the prison is huge. This is why it doesn’t happen. Often mental health staff is limited on a prison compound. Two psychologists for 1200 inmates is normal. These psychologists often lack the time or specialized training to deal with TBI related issues.
Therefore, prison is absolutely not the right environment for an offender with TBI to be rehabilitated. Again, this is the moral dilemma. What do we as a society do with offenders who act out due to a brain injury that they have suffered and not consciously? 

An additional peer reviewed study that supports the link between traumatic brain injury and criminal behavior was “The Relationship Between Traumatic Brain Injury and Criminality in Juvenile Offenders” by Gordon, Spielman, Ketter & Therese ( 2017). The authors focused their study on adolescent offenders and found that over 72 percent of them had suffered a TBI. (Gordon, Spielman, Ketter & Therese  2017). Mood disorders were also more common among inmates that had suffered a TBI. The study also found that correctional institutions do not routinely screen inmates for TBI upon arrival to the institution. (Gordon, Spielman, Ketter & Therese  2017). Therefore, it is difficult, if not impossible to identify inmates who require special treatment due to their brain injury.

In  “Traumatic Brain Injury and Recidivism Among Returning Inmates by Ray & Richardson ( 2017). The authors confirm what other studies have found, TBI’s increase the chances that an offender will interact with the criminal justice system. All of the samples used for this study were males in their early 30’s in Indiana (Ray & Richardson 2017). One third of the sample had suffered a TBI at one point in their life. (Ray & Richardson  2017). The study found that screening for TBI was vital so that offenders could be placed into programs that provide them the proper structure and support they need to succeed. With proper screening I mates can actually be treated for their brain injury and be much less likely to come into contact with the criminal justice system. (Ray & Richardson  2017).
In conclusion, the link between TBI’s and criminal offending is real and creates some real moral questions about the treatment of these offenders and whether they should be held fully responsible for their actions moving forward. Failure to properly treat these offenders will likely result in increased recidivism and crime.

Lane, K. S., St. Pierre, M. E., Lauterbach, M. D., & Koliatsos, V. E. (2017). Patient profiles of criminal behavior in the context of traumatic brain injury. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 62(2), 545–548.
Gordon, W. A., Spielman, L. A., Hahn-Ketter, A. E., & Sy, K. T. L. (2017). The relationship between traumatic brain injury and criminality in juvenile offenders. The Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, 32(6), 393–403.
Nagele, D., Vaccaro, M., Schmidt, M. J., & Keating, D. (2018). Brain injury in an offender population: implications for reentry and community transition. Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, 57(8), 562–585.
Phelps M. S. (2011). Rehabilitation in the Punitive Era: The Gap between Rhetoric and Reality in U.S. Prison Programs. Law & society review, 45(1), 33–68. to an external site.
Ray B, Richardson NJ. Traumatic Brain Injury and Recidivism Among Returning Inmates. Criminal Justice and Behavior. 2017;44(3):472-486. doi:10.1177/0093854816686631

How State Prisons Are Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic


By Sean R. Francis, M.S.

President, Justice Solutions of America, Inc.

The COVID-19 pandemic seems to have caught the entire world off guard but nowhere is that more apparent than in our nation’s jails and prisons. Indeed, the recent outbreak has placed a number of measures, once considered unthinkable, on the table in an attempt to halt the virus’ spread inside secure institutions. This blog will explore exactly what is being done and what measures are being considered.

Because of the highly contagious nature of COVID-19, many cities and states are reducing admissions to county jails and preventing the constant recycling of people as they come in and out of jails.

Police are accomplishing this by simply citing low-level offenders instead of arresting them. Other cities have stopped responding to non – violent, low-level crimes. Some states have halted vehicle inspections.

Additionally, in recognition of the significant challenge COVID-19 poses to the community at large, but to an incarcerated community specifically, prosecutors in some states and cities have begun dismissing low-level offenses such as drug, prostitution and trespassing charges.

In another measure to combat COVID-19 multiple states around the country are actively considering releasing non-violent offenders rather than keeping them incarcerated and some have already begun to do so. This is unheard of in recent times.

COVID – 19 also means life will also become more difficult for many offenders in our nation’s prisons. Personal, conjugal and legal visits have been almost completely halted. Therefore, those that are left behind bars will face a greater challenge in maintaining ties to the community, a proven tool to reduce recidivism. They will also lose access to their attorneys which will prevent many from mounting an adequate defense and raise significant constitutional issues.

As if this were not enough, many prisons have completely halted transfers and refused to admit new offenders into their institutions. Thus, sentenced offenders in county jail, a miserable place to be under any circumstances, will be held there indefinitely for the time being.

Also, many prisons have suspended most inmate movement and greatly reduced such essential programing services like recreation and education. Therefore, our nation’s prisons, a dangerous place on any given day, could become a powder keg as inmates with years to serve now have nothing to do but sit in their housing units and stare at the walls. Some prison wardens have openly voiced concern about the prospect of riots and losing control of their institutions.

COVID -19 presents a significant challenge to us all but nowhere is that more apparent than in our nation’s prisons. If you have a loved one who is incarcerated contact us today to see what we can do to help and ensure their safety.


By Sean R. Francis, M.S.

President, Justice Solutions of America, Inc. 

While they initially were slow to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, recent signs show that the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is aggressively taking steps to stop the spread of the deadly virus in their institutions. In March Attorney General William Barr ordered the BOP to immediately expedite the transfer of eligible inmates to home confinement. While there was initial confusion in the implementation of the Attorney General’s directive, the BOP and DOJ have recently issued updated guidance on exactly who is able to be released during this time of crisis. This new criterion was recently disclosed in a court hearing in the Southern District of New York. The new criteria is as follows:
“[Bureau of Prisons] is at this time prioritizing for consideration those inmates who either (1) have served 50% or more of their sentences, or (2) have 18 months or less remaining in their sentences and have served 25% or more of their sentences,” the filing said. “As BOP processes the inmates eligible for home confinement under these criteria and learns more about the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on BOP facilities, it is assessing whether and how to otherwise priority consideration.”

Thus far the BOP has released 1,440 inmates to home confinement. While this is a small drop in the bucket, considering that there are close to 200,000 federal inmates, it is important to remember that only a small percentage of inmates meet all of the criteria for release outlined by the Attorney General. It is also important to remember that this is a rapidly developing situation, requiring the BOP to adapt and adjust to increasingly fluctuating guidance from Washington.

Additionally, we are seeing signs of aggressive testing in some of the hardest hit federal prisons. In Butner, N.C., a correctional complex with multiple separate prisons, confirmed cases have soared. FCC Butner now has the most confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the federal prison system.  This past week 185 cases were reported, almost all coming from one of the medium security prisons (FCI I) and adjacent satellite camp. In response, the BOP has tested all inmates for the virus and quarantined those testing positive at the low security prison on the complex grounds.
Additionally, the BOP has provided all staff and inmates at the prison with face masks and required them to be worn.

As of April 28th, 2020, there are 1046 federal inmates and 330 staff who have confirmed positive test results for COVID-19 and 28 inmate deaths. While they may have gotten off to a slow start the BOP is clearly taking this seriously and working to flatten the curve in their institutions.

By Sean R. Francis, MS
President, Justice...



By Sean R. Francis, MS
President, Justice Solutions of America, Inc.


Since the early 1990’s multiple laws have ben enacted in response to the gruesome, yet rare, incidences of child sexual assault and murder. These laws include sex offender registration, resi-dency restrictions and civil commitment statutes. While these laws may have been well intentioned, they have fallen far short of their goals and have trampled the constitutional rights of offenders who have successfully completed their criminal sentences. Furthermore, these laws have created a public hysteria and lynch mob mentality when it comes to anyone with the sex offender label. This paper will show how the public fears regarding sex offenders are unfounded as research conclu-sively shows that sex offenders have a lower rate of recidivism than any other type of criminal of-fender. Furthermore, this paper will argue that sex offender laws make society less safe and threat-en the civil liberties of us all.
Sex offenders are those who stand convicted of certain specific offenses enumerated by statute. In response to these crimes, and the perceived rate of recidivism of these offenders, legisla-tors enacted laws intended to be “regulatory” in nature that would help society and law enforcement track and monitor sex offenders. However, sex offender laws and restrictions have failed in keep-ing society safe and preventing recidivism. Instead, they have weakened constitutional protections and put us all at risk. These laws have been supported by misinformation and a public hysteria about rates of recidivism and the threat these offenders pose to society. Indeed, sex offenders have the lowest rate of recidivism among criminal offenders.

The criminal acts that instigated public outrage and fear against these offenders.
On July 27th, 1981 Adam Walsh was in a Southern Florida Sears when he was abducted right under the noses of his parents. About two weeks later Adam’s head was found by fisherman in a local canal. The case remained a mystery for close to thirty years. However, convicted serial killer Otis Toole confessed to the murder and the case was closed. Toole was never convicted of the murder of Walsh and died in prison in 1996.  (
In October of 1989 an 11 year old farm boy named Jacob Wetterling from a rural Minneso-ta road. His death would remain unsolved for the next 27 years. However, in 2016 convicted sex offender Danny Heinrich admitted that he abducted, sexually assaulted and then killed the 11 year old. Shooting him in the head twice. For years Heinrich was a person of interest and denied com-mitting the crime. However, after being charged with federal child pornography violations in 2016 Heinrich struck a plea deal. He would be kept in a safe federal prison to do his time and in return he would accept responsibility for the murder of Jacob and lead police to the body. Heinrich, under the terms of the plea deal, would not be charged with the crime. (
On October 1st, 1993 twelve year old Polly Klass was enjoying a slumber party with friends in her home. Her mother and brother were sleeping just down the hall. Convicted sex of-fender Richard Allan Davis entered Polly’s room and abducted her at knife point. Davis had just been released on parole three months earlier for an attack against a woman. While it was never proven that Davis sexually assaulted Polly he did admit to killing her and dumping her body. (
In July of 1994 seven year old Megan Kanka went missing from her New Jersey home. About twenty four hours later her body was found dumped in a park near her home. She had been sexually assaulted and murdered by 33 year old Jesse Timmendequas. ( This was not the first time Timmendequas had sexually assaulted children. He had two prior convictions for the sexual assault of girls aged five and seven. ( With Megan, Timmendequas lured her to his home to see a new puppy. He lived right next door to the Kanka family. After her death of their daughter Megan’s family said that, had they knew a sex offender lived next door to them, Megan never would have been allowed to play outside alone.
B. The response of legislators that has resulted in the current laws.
Prior to 1994 and the death of Megan Kanka only a few states mandated that those convict-ed of sexual offenses register their addresses with the local police. ( Furthermore, that registration was for law enforcement only and the penalties for non compliance were minor. Me-gan’s death changed all of that and sparked a nationwide outcry. States started to mandate that sex offenders register their addresses with law enforcement. However, the federal government soon got involved which really put teeth and uniformity into these laws.
In 1994 Congress passed the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Vio-lent Predator Act. This was the first federal law addressing sex offenders and it was comprehen-sive. This statute established standards mandating that all states maintain a sex offender registry. This registry was not publicly available, it was for law enforcement only. The act further estab-lished a class of sexual offenders known as “sexually violent predators.” The act also mandated that sex offenders verify their addresses annually unless they were designated as sexually violent predators. For them the address verification was every 90 days. The Wetterling Act further set time limits for registration. Ten years for all offenders except sexually violent offenders, lifetime regis-tration for them.
This would not be the last federal law passed regulating sex offenders. Two years later in 1996 Congress would formally enact Megan’s Law. This law, on the federal level, amended the Wetterling Act and mandated public notification of information related to sexual offenders when it was needed to protect the public. Such information included the name and address of the offender as well as the offenders picture. The federal version of Megan’s Law also allowed information states had collected for registration purposes to be released to the public. It was truly this law that began the public sex offender notification system we have in place to this day.
Also in 1996 Congress passed the Pam Lychner Sexual Offender Tracking and Identifica-tion Act. This act created a database on sexual offenders available only to law enforcement and maintained by the FBI. This is very similar to NCIC or the national crime and information comput-er, a depository for all criminal records in the country maintained by the FBI. The only difference is that this national depository dealt only with sex offenders. The Lyncher Act also mandated states to transmit to the FBI the information of those convicted of sexual offenses and allowed the FBI to disseminate that information to those conducting federal background checks.
In addition to registration and notification laws many communities decided to enact even more regulations and laws designed to regulate sex offenders. It has been estimated that at least 30 states and many communities have passed residence restriction laws on sex offenders. ( These laws essentially ban sex offenders from living in many locations. Because many of these laws mandate that a convicted sex offender not live with in 1000-2500 feet of any place children congregate, these laws have effectively banished sex offenders from certain cities. (
Lawmakers in some states also enacted civil commitment statutes in response to the above mentioned crimes. These laws were sold as a measure of last resort for the “worst of the worst” of sexual offenders. Civil commitment allows, after a finding that a sex offender has a mental illness, abnormality or disorder, and that disorder makes the offender dangerous and likely to re-offend, the offender can be committed for care and treatment indefinitely. Kansas v. Hendricks, 521 U.S. 346 (1997). To date twenty states and the federal government have statutes allowing for the civil commitment of sex offenders. (
On July 27th, 2006 President George W. Bush signed the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act. This sweeping law intensified already existing laws regulating sex offenders. This law expanded the definition of who is considered a sexual offender. It also greatly increased federal penalties for crimes against children. The bill altered the nation wide system of sex offender regis-tration. Making registration longer and designating additional offenders for sex offender registra-tion. This act also established a federal civil commitment scheme for federal sex offenders in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. (
C. Who these laws apply to.
These laws only apply to those who are sexual offenders. A sexual offender is one who is convicted of a sex offense. A sex offense is, at least according to federal law, a criminal offense that has an element involving a sexual act or sexual contact with another; a criminal offense that is a specified offense against a minor; a Federal offense (including an offense prosecuted under section 1152 or 1153 of Title 18) under section 1591, or chapter 109A, 110 (other than section 2257, 2257A, or 2258), or 117, of Title 18. (34 U.S.C.A. § 20911).
A. Challenges to the sex offender registry and the legal result.
These laws represented a new and frightening attempt by legislators to keep society and children in general safe. They imposed severe restrictions on a small group of criminal offender’s that, arguably, imposed indefinite punishment, shaming and banishment. Such restrictions did not apply and had never been implemented against any other type of criminal offender’s. They would not simply be accepted without legal challenge.
The first case to challenge sex offender registration was Smith v. Doe, 538 U.S. 84 (2003). This case tested the retroactive nature of sex offender registration. The plaintiffs argued that retro-active application of sex offender registration violated the Ex Post Facto clause of the Constitution arguing that sex offender registration was punitive. Id. The plaintiffs in this case had been convict-ed of sexual offenses before the act went into effect.
However, the Supreme Court disagreed. In a 6-3 decision the high court held that sex of-fender registrations is merely regulatory and not punitive. Therefore, the Ex Post Facto argument could not succeed. This ruling cleared the way for retroactive application of sex offender registries. Id.
The disclosure of a sex offenders personal information, such as address and picture, after release from prison also was addressed by the Supreme Court. In Connecticut Department of Pub-lic Safety v. Doe, 538 U.S. 1 (2003) the court dealt with the issue of a state making a sex offenders information available to the public on a website. The petitioner in this case argued that the Connect-icut law allowing the dissemination of such information violated the Fourteenth Amendments Due Process Clause. The petitioner argued that Due Process required a hearing before being placed on a public registry. Id.
In a unanimous decision the Supreme Court held that Due Process is not implicated here because there is no liberty interest at stake. Id. Simply an injury to one’s reputation. Furthermore, this was simply a sharing of information that was already public and any process the petitioner was due he got during his criminal trial before a finding of guilt. Id.
B. Challenges to residency restrictions and the legal result.
With residency restrictions came a form of modern day banishment. Those who were con-victed of sexual offenses, in close to thirty states and multiple cities, were excluded from being an-ywhere near where children congregated. ( Often 1500 to 2500 feet. This in effect ban-ished most sex offenders from many cities. They were unable to find employment or even housing. In a disturbing and public case that showed just how horrible these laws impacted offenders, many Florida sex offenders were forced to live under a bridge due to the severe residency restrictions in place in Miami. (
Initially, many jurisdictions simply turned a blind eye to this form of modern day banish-ment. The Supreme Court has never weighed in on it. However, the courts may be willing to ig-nore this modern day banishment no longer. In New York , California and Massachusetts the states high courts have struck down sex offender residency restrictions as unconstitutional. Recog-nizing the fact that offenders essentially cannot find a home and are banished by these laws the courts are beginning to rule that residency restrictions are unconstitutional.(,( ), (
C. Challenges to the multiple terms and conditions placed on paroled sex offenders as well as offenders on probation and the legal result.
Sex offenders sentenced to a term of imprisonment almost always have a term of probation, supervised release or parole after their incarceration is complete. Many times these post-incarceration supervision terms have rules that are tailored to an offenders behavior. If the offender breaks the rules they can be returned to prison. For a sex offender the terms and conditions are of-ten suffocating. Often resulting in return to prison as it is almost impossible to comply with them all and officers often have an easy time finding a reason to violate an offender.
Often sex offenders are mandated to wear a G.P.S. tracking device for the duration of their supervision. They are also subject to sex offender treatment including polygraph tests and Penile Plethysmography tests, which measure the size of an offenders penis while he watches images on a T.V. ( Both tests have been debunked by science and are not admissible in court, however, they are used in sex offender treatment programs sex offenders are ordered into after their release. ( Sex offenders are also subjected to “full disclosure poly-graph tests.” These tests mandate an offender report all the offenses he has ever committed even if he has never been caught for such offenses. Furthermore, the offender is mandated to sign a waiver allowing the disclosure of information to law enforcement. It is basically a catch 22. Refusal to par-ticipate in treatment and full disclosure polygraphs means a return to prison, however, participating means the possibility of new charges.
Courts have upheld most of the terms and conditions applied to sex offenders during their post-incarceration supervision. See United States v. York, 357 F.3d 14, 19 (1st Cir. 2004), United States v. Johnson, 446 F.3d 272 (2d Cir. 2006), United States v. Dotson, 324 F.3d 256 (4th Cir. 2003). However, the courts have put the breaks on full disclosure polygraph tests, at least to a point. In a major victory for the constitution and sex offenders federal courts have held that forcing sex offenders to reveal crimes that they have not been caught for in a treatment program violates the Fifth Amendment. See United States v. Von Behren, 822 F.3d 1139, 1144 (10th Cir. 2016), United States v. Antelope, 395 F.3d 1128 (9th Cir. 2005).
A.  Why these laws are unconstitutional and punitive.
Nobody will argue that sex offenders commit ugly and despicable crimes that harm their victims for a lifetime. However, unless we are going to sentence an offender to a term of life in prison without parole….they are going to get out. Once they complete their sentence, regardless of how ugly and disgusting their crime may have been, we as a society cannot simply banish and shame them like leapers. It makes us no worse then the offender, more importantly it is unconstitu-tional makes society less safe instead of safer.
When these laws were first enacted they passed constitutional muster because they were “regulatory” in nature and not punitive. See Kansas v. Hendricks, 521 U.S. 346 (1997) However, a close look at the reality of what these laws have caused can no longer sway an honest finder of fact that this is still the case. Indeed, it may be time for such a look as it has been close to twenty years since sex offender registration and notification has been looked at by the Supreme Court.
Today registration and notification has caused countless cases of harassment by the public. Furthermore, because this information is public, offenders are often denied job opportunities since a simple online check can reveal a past they have already paid the price for. This impacts housing as well. In jurisdictions where there are no residency restrictions, or where such restrictions have been struck down, the same internet search will almost certainly halt and ex offenders chances of finding a home. In essence, these laws have ensured that these offenders always and forever will continue to pay for their crimes. Some may be alright with that, and an argument could likely be made that sex offenders deserve that, however, if we are going to let them out we cant continue to punish them. Like it or not, their sentence had an END date.
We also lump together all sex offenders and place them all on a public registry. However, not all sex offenders are dangerous and their crimes are not equal. If we place a teenager who had sex with his underage girlfriend on the registry next to someone who broke into a home and raped a woman, is that fair? Do they both represent the same threat? Of course not, yet they are treated the same, placed on a public registry.
Sex offender registration and notification also can make us less safe. The vast majority of sex offenses are not committed by a random stranger, like the cases cited above, they are committed by a family member or close friend. Furthermore, if a parent is simply focusing on the offenders they see on a web site they are not paying any attention to the other threats their child may be fac-ing. Also we have to think about the vast resources that law enforcement needs to actually enforce these laws and check up on these offenders. In the age of shrinking budgets and cuts our police simply do not have the resources to enforce these laws anymore. We also have to realize that if we banish and shame people we are hindering if not completely preventing rehabilitation. (  Also, in a shocking study in 2008 by the justice department it was found that Megan’s Law, de-spite its popularity, had no effect in keeping children safe…..yet we continue to waste millions en-forcing it.(
A.  The current state of these laws.
The latest trend in sex offense laws has been to banish them from anyplace children con-gregate. This is often a 1000-2500 feet buffer zone. However, because it is often difficult to find a place in a city that is 2500 feet away from a school or playground or park these regulations can ef-fectively ban offenders from living in an entire city.
Initially these laws were upheld as constitutional like all the other regulations dealing with sex offenders. Almost all states upheld them on first glance as well. ( However in recent years the tide on these banishment laws has turned. Massachusetts, New York and California have struck these restrictions down as unconstitutional. Increasingly, state and federal courts are striking down these modern day banishment laws.
B. Why these laws are unconstitutional
In the United States we cannot simply banish people we do not like. If we do we set  a dangerous precedent that could be used to exclude any criminal offender that the community does not want around. Not to mention that residency restrictions that impede an offender’s ability to have a home anywhere in their city of residence infringes on a person’s constitutionally protected right to life and liberty under the Due Process Clause and imposes punishment retroactively in vio-lation of the Ex Post Facto Clause of the United States Constitution. As the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit recently explained when striking down Michigan’s new and draconian sex offender scheme, these laws:
“brand registrants as moral lepers solely on the basis of a prior conviction. It consigns them to years, if not a lifetime, of existence on the margins, not only of society, but often, as the record in this case makes painfully evident, from their own families, with whom, due to school zone re-strictions, they may not even live. It directly regulates where registrants may go in their daily lives and compels them to interrupt those lives with great frequency in order to appear in person before law enforcement to report even minor changes to their information.” (

A brief history of civil commitment including the jurisdictions that use it.
In 1994 Kansas established the Sexually Violent Predator Act. Its intention was to detain certain sex offenders, after their sentences ended, who were deemed mentally unstable and likely to re-offend. The commitment was for care and treatment and it was indefinite. The first candidate chosen for this commitment was Leroy Hendricks. Hendricks had a long history of molesting chil-dren. Indeed, Hendricks testified that he could not control the urge to molest children when he got stressed out. Kansas v. Hendricks, 521 U.S. 346 (1997)
Hendricks was committed as a sexually violent predator under the act. He brought multiple challenges to the law, including that the law violated the Due Process, Double Jeopardy and Ex Post Facto Clauses of the United States Constitution. Id. In rejecting his arguments the Supreme Court held that the commitment scheme was clearly civil in nature as its stated purpose is for care and treatment. Id. Once an offender can demonstrate that they are no longer mentally ill or a danger to society at large, they must be released. Because the civil commitment scheme was ruled as a civil and regulatory law constitutional protections against Double Jeopardy and Ex Post Facto laws did not apply. Also, the court found that the act provided adequate Due Process protections for those detained as sexual predators. However, in an important footnote Justice Kennedy said that if civil commitment were to be used for retribution or deterrence, which is the job of the criminal justice system, civil commitment would no longer be constitutional. Id.
Shortly after Hendricks was decided the Kansas civil commitment program was at the Su-preme Court again. This time it was being challenged on the grounds that the prior ruling in Kan-sas v. Hendricks mandated a complete lack of ability to control one’s behavior before one could be committed. The Supreme Court ruled that its prior decision in Hendricks does not require a “com-plete” lack of control over one’s behavior. Rather, it must only be shown that a defendant has a current mental illness or disorder that makes it “difficult if not impossible” to control one’s behav-ior. Kansas v. Crane, 534 U.S. 407 (2002) These two cases, Hendricks and Crane, have set the framework for modern day civil commitment of sex offenders in the United States.
B. The state of civil commitment today.
Today twenty states and the federal government have sex offender civil commitment pro-grams today. These programs are costly, costing tax payers multiple millions of dollars per year. The sad reality of these programs is that, while the states claim they are for treatment, and while the Supreme Court’s decision in Hendricks mandates that offenders be released when they no longer pose a danger, rarely anybody ever leaves. Instead civil commitment has become a life sentence for offenders who have already served their sentence in full. It is a place of no hope, a legal purgatory. Furthermore, even though these offenders are now patients and not inmates they are often held in prison like conditions if not actual prisons themselves. The federal civil commitment program is at a federal prison in Butner, N.C. and the patients who are civilly committed are mandated to dress the same as inmates, follow the same rules and even mingle and associate with convicted inmates. Therefore, the federal civil commitment program, like many of the states, is civil in name only.
Recently, federal judges in Minnesota and Missouri have found the state civil commitment programs to be unconstitutional, draconian and punitive. They have recognized it for what it is, not treatment but life imprisonment. Unfortunately, those holdings were overturned at the appellate lev-el and the Supreme Court has declined to hear the cases. So yet again, a system that is nothing more than a life sentence under the guise of mental health treatment is allowed to destroy the lives of men who have served their criminal sentence in full.
So draconian and disgusting is civil commitment that many countries refuse to extradite sexual offenders back to the U.S. Indeed, the United Kingdom is among them. Sex offenders who make it to the F.B.I. most wanted list cannot even be returned to the U.S. unless the U.K. is as-sured that the offender will not face civil commitment after his sentence ends. Civil commitment has been called a “human rights abuse” by the U.K. Supreme Court. Civil commitment is truly a sad footnote in American history.
C. The Future of Civil Commitment.
Politicians do not get elected and re-elected by advocating get soft on crime tactics. They have an even worse chance of remaining in office if they sponsor or support any bill that could make the life of a sex offender easier. So, there is no help coming from politicians unless it is forced on them by the courts. The problem there is that the courts have long ago turned a blind eye to sex offenders. We now have 20 years of data since Kansas v. Hendricks was decided. We now know that, while laws like registration of sex offenders and civil commitment were intentioned as “non punitive” and “regulatory” they have been implemented in a manner that can no longer be mistaken for anything but punitive.
Sadly, the courts simply do not seem to care or want to enter this debate. Surprising con-sidering federal judges are appointed for life. You would think they would be inclined the shake things up with a lifetime tenure…..but they are not in most cases. The simple fact of the matter is that for anything to change about civil commitment it will have to come from the U.S. Supreme Court and when they will decide to address what we all know is true about these programs is any-one’s guess. But most likely we will have to have a courageous appeals court strikes civil commit-ment down as unconstitutional first.

What is SORNA and the Adam Walsh act?
In 2006 President George W. Bush signed into law the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act. This act was a sweeping new bill targeting sex offenders and specifically those offend-ers who prey on children. This bill did a few things. It expanded the definition of the term sex of-fender by expanding the offenses that qualify as sexual offenses. The act also established a federal civil commitment program operated by the federal bureau of prisons. This program applies to those offenders who are in federal custody. The Walsh Act also made it a federal crime for an offender to not register as a sex offender.
The Walsh act also created SORNA which is the sex offender registry and notification act. SORNA mandates minimum standards for sex offender registration and notification in the United States. ( The purpose of this was to close the many loopholes within the patchwork of state systems. SORNA also expanded sex offender registration to federal recognized Indian lands. ( This act also mandated longer registration times for sex offenders, setting up a tier sys-tem. The act also mandated that juvenile sex offenders register. (
B. How have these laws changed sex offender laws in the United States?
SORNA has truly changed the game when it comes to sex offender registration. By making failure to register a federal offense this law has taken an issue that is historically a state issue and making it a federal one. This law has attempted to remove the power of the states when it comes to sex offender registries and notification. The act has also forced a tier system of registration on the states and required juveniles, whose records are historically sealed, onto a registry, sometimes for life. The registration requirements are worse than anything before it. In sum, SORNA has federal-ized sex offender registration, enhanced registration offenses and requirements and increased pen-alties for not complying.
A. The states revolt against SORNA
While SORNA might be the most sweeping and draconian registration scheme in history, that does not mean it has been implemented. SORNA has been found to be offensive and draconi-an not only to the offenders it applies to but to many states as well. As of today, only 18 of 50 states have fully complied with SORNA and the law has been in effect for over 10 years now. This is not an accident. The costs alone of implementing SORNA are high and in times of fiscal restraint many states have realized that the cost of non-compliance outweighs the cost of implementation. States that refuse to comply will lose 10 percent of federal grant money for law enforcement. How-ever, it’s a small amount compared to the cost of implementing SORNA. For example, as of 2009 it would cost California ( a non-compliance state ) over 59 million dollars to implement SORNA. If they refuse to implement it, as they have, they would lose only 2 million dollars. So, from a dollars and sense point it’s an easy decision for the majority of the states. (
There are additional problems that have prevented implementation as well. Some state su-preme courts have found SORNA unconstitutional and struck it down in full or in part as Cruel and Unusual as well as an Ex Post Facto violation.( ( In a major decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court the court held that SORNA violates the federal and state constitutions. The court held that sex offender registration is now punitive. As such it violates the Ex Post Facto clause of the constitution. This was a major ruling, the first of its kind to hold registration as punitive. This could cause other courts to make similar rulings not that the Pennsyl-vania Supreme Court has taken this brave step. In sum, the future of registries could be thrown into doubt of this starts a chain reaction. The ruling has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and it would be helpful if they take the case to, hopefully, reclassify sex offender registration as what it truly is, punitive.
So, while SORNA is certainly sweeping and comprehensive it is not nearly as useful as intentioned as the majority of state have refused to even implement it.
B. How residency restrictions are increasingly being struck down by state courts as uncon-stitutional.
We are beginning to see the courts signal that their patients with residency restrictions and banishment laws are about at an end. In recent months and years state courts and supreme courts are increasingly striking these laws down as unconstitutional. Recognizing that a sex offender was prohibited from living in over 96 percent of San Diego the California Supreme Court said enough was enough. In California residency restrictions are essentially over and sex offenders can now live near parks and schools. ( Other states are now following suit as residency re-strictions have recently been struck down in their entirety in New York and Massachusetts.

C. Packingham v. North Carolina, 582 U.S. ___ (2017) and how the Supreme Court may be singling that enough is enough.
In an attempt the harass sex offenders even more, North Carolina passed a law that essen-tially prohibited sex offenders from accessing social media websites under the rationale that this gives them access to children. However, the Supreme Court had had enough. In a rare unanimous ruling the court held that the broad social media ban violated the First Amendment of the Constitu-tion. Justice Kennedy writing for the court said “A fundamental principle of the First Amendment is that all persons have access to places where they can speak and listen, and then, after reflection, speak and listen once more. By prohibiting sex offenders from using those websites, North Caroli-na with one broad stroke bars access to what for many are the principal sources for knowing cur-rent events, checking ads for employment, speaking and listening in the modern public square, and otherwise exploring the vast realms of human thought and knowledge.”
This was a rare win for sex offenders at the high court. However, more and more we are starting to see state and federal courts take aim at what has clearly become an oppressive and puni-tive system of laws intended to punish sex offenders well past the completion of their prison sen-tences. We can only hope that the Supreme Court will choose to take up more sex offender cases soon and change the precedents they have set that has caused all the harm to men who have com-pleted their time and damage to our constitutional rights.
This paper has detailed and discussed the specific laws dealing with sex offenders and ar-gued against these laws. However, we have not yet discussed possibly the largest reason these laws are not needed. The science and studies that have been done addressing sex offender recidi-vism rates have conclusively shown that sex offenders have a lower rate of recidivism than any other type of criminal offender. Indeed, the U.S. Department of Justice did a study to find out just how likely it is that sex offenders will reoffend. The results were striking. A 2014 DOJ report found that the rate of re-offense for sex offenders was about 5 percent over ten years. It was higher as time went on. For example, the rate of re-offense was 27 percent over 20 years. This is a far cry from the 80 percent recidivism rate the Supreme Court has cited to allow laws like sex offender registration and civil commitment law to remain. Indeed, there is much debate on this point and many claim the Supreme Court simply upheld these laws based on nothing more than bad science and the myth of astronomical recidivism rates. ( )
The policies and laws that have been intended to make us all safer against the threat of sex-ual offenders has failed. These laws have limited the rights of a select group of people, thus threat-ening the rights of us all. Of equal concern is that the courts have, for over twenty years, turned a blind eye to the systematic striping of constitutional rights from American citizens based on their classification as a sexual offender. Indeed, our Supreme Court has saved almost all sex offender laws by terming them “regulatory measures” and not punishment. With over two decades of expe-rience with these laws we can now say that this is not true.
The legal field is one that is founded on the bedrock principle of ethics and equal justice for all. When we ignore the rights of a group of people we do not like and even support the removal of constitutional rights from people we do not like the legal profession and the courts lose credibility. The legal profession and the courts lose their credibility that they are fair and impartial, they lose their credibility that officers of the court and judges are ethical and that they will uphold the consti-tution of the United States. These laws call into question the credibility of our courts as a whole and of our Supreme Court, which has saved these laws and allowed them in particular.
As a whole this study has shown me that the principles that the United States stands for are mostly an illusion. It sounds good on paper but if our society does not like someone enough or a certain group of people enough, the legal system will find a way to justify taking their rights and their freedom and making their life as unpleased as it can. This study has shown me to truly fear our government and not to trust the court system. When this nation passes laws that the rest of the civilized world considers human rights violations there is something very, very wrong going on. With that said, this study has also given me a certain amount of hope. I have found that many courts have started to reexamine these laws and start to mandate change. However, until we see that from our Supreme Court none of it really matters.    

REFERENCES zone-law-lynn/3VeYLBQRGBKPjJSOzIaN2J/story.html
Connecticut Department of Public Safety v. Doe, 538 U.S. 1 (2003) states-supreme-court/723447001/ Adam_Walsh.pdf
Kansas v. Hendricks, 521 U.S. 346,  (1997) offenders-article-1.2181079 courtroom.html under-bridge-idUSN0515234320080206 offenders-homes/23585499/ debated/ abducted-and-killed-jacob-wetterling-ending-a-27-year-old-mystery/? utm_term=.fb6d80d959a1
Smith v. Doe, 538 U.S. 84 (2003)
United States v. York, 357 F.3d 14, 19 (1st Cir. 2004),
United States v. Johnson, 446 F.3d 272 (2d Cir. 2006),
United States v. Dotson, 324 F.3d 256 (4th Cir. 2003)
United States v. Von Behren, 822 F.3d 1139, 1144 (10th Cir. 2016)
United States v. Antelope, 395 F.3d 1128 (9th Cir. 2005)
34 U.S.C.A. § 20911

Federal and State Prisons to Resume Visiting
By Sean R. Francis, MS
Since March almost all state and federal correctional institutions, as well as county jails, have suspended in person visitation due to the COVID-19 pandemic....

Federal and State Prisons to Resume Visiting
By Sean R. Francis, MS

Since March almost all state and federal correctional institutions, as well as county jails, have suspended in person visitation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This has resulted in additional stress on inmates who were forced to endure pandemic related lock downs and on the families of inmates who lived in fear daily about the fate of their incarcerated loved ones.

However, with COVID-19 numbers falling and the vast efforts our nations correctional institutions have made to combat this virus, the time of indefinite visitation suspension is finally coming to an end. The Federal Bureau of Prisons has announced that in person visitation will resume on October 3, 2020 for all of their 122 institutions.
In New York visitation at the states 52 prisons resumed in August. Many states are following suit.

Maintaining community and family ties has been recognized as one of the best ways an offender can rehabilitate and not return to prison.
Considering that 95 percent of all inmates will return to the community someday the public has a vested interest in prisoners maintaining family and community ties. With no end to the COVID nightmare in sight and concerns about a resurgence in this virus as the fall and winter approach we must now ask the question, should all correctional institutions be prepared for video visitation to ensure that offenders who have family and community ties can maintain them? Naturally, if the number of positive COVID cases climbs we will once again see in person visitation halted once again.

These have been challenging times for our nations inmates and the staff who work in these prisons every day. Yet, the indefinite suspension of visitation, one of the few things that is proven to halt recidivism, is not the best course of action. This is not the fault of the institutions, they had no idea this was coming and were as prepared as the rest of us, which is to say not at all. But we have been living with this for months and will likely be dealing with this for years to come. In light of COVID-19 I sincerely hope that all correctional institutions obtain the technology to conduct video visits so that we can continue to strengthen inmates ties to their families and communities, thus lowering recidivism.

Journey Into the BOP
By Ralph E. Miller, Jr.
GUILTY!! If your client was recently sentenced in a Federal District Court, one would think that now begins the journey into the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Actually, the journey should have begun months,...

Journey Into the BOP

By Ralph E. Miller, Jr. 

GUILTY!!  If your client was recently sentenced in a Federal District Court, one would think that now begins the journey into the Federal Bureau of Prisons.  Actually, the journey should have begun months, if not years ago.  
Program Statement, 5100.08, Inmate Security Designation and Custody Classification manual, is utilized by Bureau of Prison (BOP) staff at the Designation and Sentence Computation Center (DSCC) in Grand Prairie, Texas to classify all inmates to ensure they are placed in the most appropriate security level institution that also meets their program needs and is consistent with the Bureau’s mission to protect society.  The main and most exclusive document that is used to classify an inmate is the Presentence Investigation Report (PSR).  It is imperative that the information included in the PSR is clear, concise and 100 percent accurate as to not negatively impact an individual’s security level classification.  Why should someone be concerned with this prior to sentencing?  There are areas in the Security Designation and Custody Classification manual that are open to interpretation.  The three most common areas are the severity of the instant offense, history of violence and detainers/pending charges.  If these areas are not clear and concise and provide an accurate description of what occurred, the staff at the DSCC will take a conservative approach which could lead to a higher score being assigned resulting in a higher security point total and possibly a higher level institution.  An interview with a respectable prison consultant who is a subject matter expert in the classification of inmates is recommended prior to your first interview with the United States Probation Officer (USPO).  This will provide your client with an opportunity to cover all areas the USPO will discuss and provide detailed instructions on what to expect and what could negatively impact your client.  After the PSR is completed, it needs to be reviewed to ensure clarity and provide your client with an initial custody classification score and possible objections that would be beneficial for your client’s term of incarceration.  Once sentenced and the Judge adopts the PSR without change, the PSR as written will be used by the DSCC staff to determine your client’s security level.  Your client should not wait until after sentencing to contemplate their fate.  As soon as there is a guilty plea or a finding of guilt, this the time to consult with the experts in the classification and designation of inmates.  
As previously stated, the Inmate Security Designation and Custody Classification manual is the main source document in determining an individual’s security total.  There are nine areas which are assigned points that factor in the total number of points assigned to your client.  They are: Voluntary Surrender, Severity of Offense, Criminal History Score, History of Violence, History of Escape or Attempts, Type of Detainer, Age, Education Level and Drug/Alcohol Use.  The only areas that are really not open for interpretation to the staff at the DSCC are the Criminal History Score which is assigned by the USPO and Age.  The remainder of the categories can be open for interpretation and assigned higher points if the PSR is not clear, concise, and provide an accurate descriptions of the instant offense, criminal history, education level completed and drug/alcohol use.  Months to release is also a factor in determining one’s security level.  Regardless of the point total assigned, if your client has more than 10 years remaining to serve, they will be housed in at least a low security level facility.  If there is more than 20 years remaining to serve, they will be housed in at least a medium security level institution and lastly, if there is more than 30 years remaining to serve, they will be housed in a high security facility.  These timeframe guidelines can be reviewed and waived for placement in a lesser security facility by the Chief of the DSCC, however, that is rarity at the initial classification and designation.  
One would think that there should not be any issues in the scoring of the severity of the instant offense.   It is important to remember that the BOP scores the severity of the instant offense based on the most severe documented instant offense behavior regardless of the conviction offense.  The two areas which cause the most confusion and result in a higher point total are scoring individuals convicted of sex offenses and offenses that involve violence.  For example, utilizing the Offense Severity Scale in the Security Designation and Custody Classification manual, an individual convicted of Felon in Possession of a Firearm would be scored as a moderate severity offense under Weapons (Other).  However, the PSR states that while fleeing from law enforcement, the subject was observed pulling a handgun from his jacket pocket and pointing it toward the responding officers.  Based on this description, the DSCC would classify the offender as greatest severity under Weapons (Brandishing).  Ensure the PSR provides an accurate description of your client’s actions which led to his arrest.  Also worth noting, is if your client was serving a local or state sentence and there was no break in custody, whichever sentence yields the most points will be utilized as the severity of the instant offense.  For example, your client was serving a state sentence for robbery which is classified as a greatest severity offense and he was released to a Federal detainer for transporting illegal aliens which is a moderate severity offense, your client will be classified as a greatest severity offender.  
History of Violence is another area which results in a higher point total and could possibly lead to a higher security level prison if not accurately described in the PSR.  History of violence is also determined by the offense behavior regardless of the conviction/finding of guilt offense.  Also, history of violence is broken down into two categories, Minor History of Violence and Serious History of Violence with serious violence yielding the most security points.  Minor history of violence is defined as aggressive or intimidation behavior which is not likely to cause serious bodily harm or death while serious violence is likely to cause serious bodily harm or death.  The Security Designation and Custody Classification program statement provides a few examples of what type of crimes generally fall into each category; however, these examples are not inclusive and it is important to remember history of violence is determined by the offense behavior and not the conviction/finding of guilt offense.  These examples are irrelevant if the details of the offense provide information which would lead one to believe serious bodily injury or death was imminent.  For example, your client was convicted of fighting which is an example listed as a minor history of violence.  However, the details of the offense state your client struck the victim in the head with a baseball bat rendering them unconscious.  This would be viewed as a serious history of violence yielding more security points.  If there is any doubt, the DSCC will score on the conservative side and score as serious violence and assign a higher point total.
History of Escape or Attempts requires a finding of guilt.  Escape history includes the individual’s entire background of escapes or attempts to escape from confinement, or absconding from community supervision.  Certain offenses such as Fleeing and Eluding, Failure to appear for traffic violations, runaways from foster homes and similar behavior are not scored as an Escape History item.  An area that is often misunderstood is when an individual violates their terms of supervision for failing to report to the USPO.  If they simply fail to report and the USPO knows their whereabouts, that is not considered an escape history, however, if the USPO does not know there whereabouts, that is most like absconding and will be considered an escape history if it is not part of their current offense.
Type of detainers are based on the Offense Severity Scale, Appendix A of the Inmate Security Designation and Custody Classification Manual.  If there are pending charges or formally filed detainers, the points assigned will be based on the documented behavior.  If there is no disposition noted or the disposition is “unknown”, the DSCC will consider these pending charges at the time of initial classification and they will be scored for approximately 19 months after an individual’s arrival at their designated institution or until information is provided that they case was resolved or the arresting agency has no interest in the case.  Often times, detainer points are assigned based on having no disposition or being unknown.  This can result in an individual being designated to a higher security level institution.  Also, individuals with a moderate level detainer are not considered for placement in a minimum security level institution.  It is imperative that the PSR accurately notes the disposition of all prior arrest history.  
Age is determined based on an individual’s birthdate.  An individual who is 24 years or younger will be assigned eight points.  If they are 25 to 35, four points, 36 to 54, two points and 55 and older zero points.  It is more difficult for a young offender to be classified and designated to a minimum security facility.  For example, a 21 year-old male offender who has a high severity offense, does not have any other criminal history, uses drugs and alcohol and does not have his high school diploma or GED, will score as a 16 point medium security level.  However, if a 55 year-old man has the same offense, also uses drugs and alcohol, does not have his high school diploma or GED, as well as pending charge for minor theft and a robbery conviction 16 years ago, he will score as an 11 point minimum security level.
Drug/Alcohol Abuse will yield one point if there is documentation of drug or alcohol related abuse within the past five years.  Examples of drug or alcohol abuse include: a conviction of a drug or alcohol related offense, a parole or probation violation based on drug or alcohol abuse, positive drug test, a DUI, detoxification, etc.  If the PSR does not contain any of the above type information, an inmate’s self-report is sufficient to score this item.  It is important to be honest with the USPO, while one point will be added to the security score, an individual may be eligible for the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Program which includes the community transitional phase in a Residential Reentry Center and possibly 3621e Early Release Eligibility.
As mentioned above, regardless of how many points an individual has, if they have more then 10, 20 or 30 years, they will be assigned a Public Safety Factor (PSF) of Sentence Length and designated to a low, medium or high security facility.  The BOP has ten other PSF’s that could affect an individual’s designation regardless of their security point total.  The most common of the remaining ten are Greatest Severity offense, Sex Offender and Alien.  These offenders will be housed in at least a low security level facility regardless of their security point total.  The DSCC Chief is authorized to review an inmate’s case,   and waive the PSF and place an inmate in a lesser security level institution.  The most common is for an inmate who has been assigned a PSF of Sentence Length due to receiving a life sentence or a sentence remaining in excess of 360 months.  Usually, after the inmate has been housed in a high security for a significant period of time with clear institutional conduct and positive adjustment, the inmate’s Unit Team can request the DSCC Chief review the case for placement in a medium security level facility.  .  Only in rare cases are PSF’s waived at initial designation.  This usually warrants consideration for very young or old inmates who score as high security.  
The BOP can also apply up to three Management Variables at the initial designation or any time during the period of incarceration.  Management Variables are required when an offender’s designated institution is inconsistent with the inmate’s scored security level.  The DSCC is the only office authorized to apply a management variable.  There are eleven management variables and the most common are: Population Management, Program Participation, Greater Security and Lesser Security.  Population Management is most often utilized when the inmate’s current facility is in need of inmates or all the facilities of the inmate’s scored security level are experiencing overcrowding.  Program Participation is utilized when an inmate is participating in a specialized program.  This management variable will be applied until the inmate completes the program.  Greater Security management variables are applied when there are security concerns which are not reflected in the inmate’s scored security level.  Most often this is due to poor institutional adjustment and disciplinary concerns.  This management variable can also be applied based on content contained in an inmate’s PSR, such as, pending charges, detainers or behavior identifying an escape risk.  Lesser security is applied when it is believed an inmate does not require the security constraints of their scored security level and can be housed in a lower security level institution.  Most often, this management variable is applied due to an inmate’s age or they have demonstrated a prolonged period of positive adjustment at their current security level.  
If your client is facing a term of federal incarceration, it is in their best interest to have their case reviewed by professionals with a background in the policies and procedures of the BOP.  The final copy of the PSR is the most important document.  It will be utilized by the BOP from initial classification and designation, as well as the inmate’s program reviews with his unit team while incarcerated.  It should be reviewed to ensure there is no information that will negatively impact their scored security level.  Federal incarceration will be a stressful life event.  Do not wait until it is too late.  



By Sean R. Francis, M.S.
President, Justice Solutions of America


In what is sure to be one of many cases asking the federal courts to clarify the scope of the First Step Act (FSA), the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah has found that the FSA allows judicial relief for stacked sentences.

Mandatory minimums led to a 55-year sentence for 20-year-old Kepa Maumau. After the FSA was passed Maumau sought relief from the district court. In determining that the court had the authority to grant relief the court noted that before the FSA an offender would need the Director of the Bureau of Prisons to motion the court seeking a sentence reduction or compassionate release. 

However, with passage of the FSA this was no longer the case. The BOP now has nothing to do with it and an offender is free to seek relief directly from the district court.

Maumau argued that the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines allows “…..relief when, “[a]s determined by the Director of the Bureau of Prisons, there exists in the defendant’s case an extraordinary and compelling
reason….” He further argued that “the catch-all provision that limits relief to grounds identified by the Director is inconsistent with the law as outlined in the First Step Act.”

Finding now new policy statement or authority to the contrary the court held that “ this court joins the majority of other district courts that have addressed this issue in concluding that it has discretion to provide [the defendant] with relief, even if his situation does not directly fall within the Sentencing Commission’s current policy statement. Under the First Step Act, it is for the court, not the Director of the Bureau of Prisons, to determine whether there is an ‘extraordinary and compelling reason’ to reduce a sentence.” U.S. v. Maumau, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 28392 ( D. Utah 2020)

The court also rejected the government’s argument that compassionate release is only for the old and frail who are suffering medical issues. Therefore, it would appear that the First Step Act could potentially become a vehicle for many offenders who have suffered under the weight of draconian federal sentencing policies to get some much needed relief.

Mar 30th, 2020

How State Prisons Are Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic


By Sean R. Francis, M.S.

President, Justice Solutions of America, Inc.

The COVID-19 pandemic seems to have caught the entire world off guard but nowhere is that more apparent than in our nation’s jails and prisons. Indeed, the recent outbreak has placed a number of measures, once considered unthinkable, on the table in an attempt to halt the virus’ spread inside secure institutions. This blog will explore exactly what is being done and what measures are being considered.

Because of the highly contagious nature of COVID-19, many cities and states are reducing admissions to county jails and preventing the constant recycling of people as they come in and out of jails.

Police are accomplishing this by simply citing low-level offenders instead of arresting them. Other cities have stopped responding to non – violent, low-level crimes. Some states have halted vehicle inspections.

Additionally, in recognition of the significant challenge COVID-19 poses to the community at large, but to an incarcerated community specifically, prosecutors in some states and cities have begun dismissing low-level offenses such as drug, prostitution and trespassing charges.

In another measure to combat COVID-19 multiple states around the country are actively considering releasing non-violent offenders rather than keeping them incarcerated and some have already begun to do so. This is unheard of in recent times.

COVID – 19 also means life will also become more difficult for many offenders in our nation’s prisons. Personal, conjugal and legal visits have been almost completely halted. Therefore, those that are left behind bars will face a greater challenge in maintaining ties to the community, a proven tool to reduce recidivism. They will also lose access to their attorneys which will prevent many from mounting an adequate defense and raise significant constitutional issues.

As if this were not enough, many prisons have completely halted transfers and refused to admit new offenders into their institutions. Thus, sentenced offenders in county jail, a miserable place to be under any circumstances, will be held there indefinitely for the time being.

Also, many prisons have suspended most inmate movement and greatly reduced such essential programing services like recreation and education. Therefore, our nation’s prisons, a dangerous place on any given day, could become a powder keg as inmates with years to serve now have nothing to do but sit in their housing units and stare at the walls. Some prison wardens have openly voiced concern about the prospect of riots and losing control of their institutions.

COVID -19 presents a significant challenge to us all but nowhere is that more apparent than in our nation’s prisons. If you have a loved one who is incarcerated contact us today to see what we can do to help and ensure their safety.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons Response to COVID – 19


By Sean R. Francis, MS

President, Justice Solutions of America, Inc.

COVID-19 has quickly become a worldwide pandemic and has plunged the United States into a national emergency not seen in recent times. According to the CDC the virus is spread through person to person transmission. Generally, this is recognized as people who are “in close contact with each other.” The CDC considers the virus “highly contagious.”

In light of this, it is obvious that our nation’s prisons are potential breeding grounds for this virus to spread like wildfire. Therefore, it is important to understand what measures are being taken to address this. The Federal Bureau of Prisons, with 175,406 inmates, is among the largest prison systems in the world and is a good place to start.

While the BOP has taken some steps to slow the spread of the virus, like halting visitation and inmate transfers, by all accounts they are woefully unprepared for COVID-19 and do not seem to be rising to the occasion.

On March 11th ABC News reported that, while state prison systems were preparing for the worst, the BOP “ doesn’t have the ability to order more cleaning supplies and doesn’t have enough wipes to sanitize the inmate transport buses. The source also said there aren’t enough N95 masks to cover half the staff, adding that most are of small size.”

Additionally, BOP staff were quoted saying that “there are currently more questions than answers.” BOP refused to provide ABC news with guidance on what they were doing citing the fluid nature of the virus.

One week later it appears that the COVID – 19 concerns among BOP staff are far from resolved. According to a CBS News story published on March 18th, several BOP staff members are quoted as saying that “their lives are in danger” and that “the agency is in chaos.”

Indeed, some BOP staff have started to test positive for COVID – 19. Therefore, it is simply a matter of time until the staff infects the inmates (if they haven’t done so already) and there is a real crisis in federal institutions across the nation.

Contact Federal Prison Consultants today to learn how we can help your family and your loved one incarcerated in the BOP navigate through this crisis safely.

THE FIRST STEP ACT – What it is and why it is important – Part One – Good Conduct Time and Earned Time Credits


By Sean R. Francis

This is part one of a series of blog posts that will breakdown and explain the First Step Act and how it applies to federal offenders.

On December 21, 2018, President Trump signed the First Step Act (FSA) into law. This piece of legislation is one of the largest measures seeking to reform the federal criminal justice system in decades. After years of “lock em up, and throw away the key” policies, such as the Prison Litigation and Reform Act (PLRA), and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, it appears the pendulum may be swinging the other way.

If you or a loved one are incarcerated in the Bureau of Prisons or are facing federal criminal charges it is vital that you understand what this act is and how it can potentially help. It is important to understand that the First Step Act applies to federal offenders only. If you or a loved one have been convicted in state court and sentenced to state prison the First Step Act cannot help you. So, let’s discuss what the First Step Act does:

Good Conduct Time-

Prior to the FSA, the Bureau of Prisons ( BOP) policy stated that “inmates earned up to 54 days of good conduct time for each year served and, in accordance with 18 USC 3624(b), the BOP pro-rated the amount of good conduct time earned for the final year of service of sentence.”

However, the BOP has a history of being very creative with math and, in reality, inmates have historically received only 47 days of good conduct credit, not 54 days.  “The BOP interprets good time credits of “up to 54 days at the end of each year of the prisoner’s term of imprisonment” in 18 U.S.C. § 3624(b) to mean 47 days for every year of the term of imprisonment. ; see also

However, under the FSA the offender would get 54 days for each year of their sentence. Therefore, an offender sentenced to ten (10) years will now earn 540 days of good conduct time. The inmate will be credited, if they maintain clear conduct, with 54 days for each year of their sentence.  Prior to the FSA, the inmate would only earn 399.5 days of good conduct time credit on a ten – year sentence.  Clearly, this is a game-changer!

This provision of the act is retroactive for any offender sentenced after November 1, 1987. According to the BOP and other sources, this change in the application of good time has resulted in over 3,100 prison sentences being shortened and offenders sent home early and it’s just the beginning.

Earned Time Credits for Programing  

The FSA has also sweetened the pot for inmates who wish to better themselves through programming. Before the FSA all programing would do is earn you brownie points with the unit team and hopefully pay off when it is time for you to be considered for halfway house.

However, programing now has some real incentives. An inmate may earn time credits for completion of Evidence-Based Recidivism Reducing Programs and/or Productive Activities if they were not convicted of a non-qualifying offense.” There is a lot to unpack here, so let’s get started.

First, the BOP has not yet identified exactly what programs will qualify as “recidivism reducing programs/productive activities.” Rather the BOP simply states that “The BOP will identify approved programs and activities in the near future.” Also, if you participate in any programming, even the approved programming BOP promises to soon identify, during pre-trial detention, it will not count towards additional earn time credits.


Additionally, earn time credits will not be available for everyone. The BOP has identified a list of “disqualifying offenses”. If an offender has a conviction for a disqualifying offense’s they may not earn the additional earn time credits and be eligible for additional time off their sentence.  You can find the list of disqualifying offenses by clicking on the link below.

It is important to understand that “participation and completion of those assigned programs and activities can lead to placement in pre-release custody or a 12-month sentence reduction under the First Step Act”, not must lead.


Therefore, additional time credits earned through programming can result in either an additional halfway house time or a 12-month sentence reduction. However, it is not assured. While it is very early and we do not know how this will play out yet, it is important to remember that the BOP has a history of using any desecration they are given to give inmates less than they may be entitled to.


The First Step Act has expanded a good time, impacting nearly every federal inmate. No longer will the BOP be able to pro-rate the 54 days a year an offender is entitled to if they maintain clear conduct. From this point on it is 54 days for every year an offender is sentenced.

Also, offenders can earn additional credits towards additional placement in pre-release custody (halfway house) and/or up-to a 12-month sentence reduction. However, it appears that the BOP has desecration on what it awards offenders and there is a laundry list of offenses that, if an inmate is convicted of, disqualifies them from even being eligible for the additional earned time credits. Currently, it is too early to tell how the newly earned time credits will play out and how the BOP will implement this aspect of the FSA.

Please check back with us to learn more about how the First Step Act will affect you or your loved ones.

By Sean R. Francis, M.S.
President, Justice Solutions of America, Inc.
As the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation struggles to contain the spred of...


By Sean R. Francis, M.S.
President, Justice Solutions of America, Inc.


As the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation struggles to contain the spred of COVID-19 within their institutions they have, like many states, turned to releasing offenders who likely will pose no threat to public safety. Indeed, CDCR and California have been on the front lines in releasing inmates to the community when it can safely be accomplished.

As of March 31, 2020, CDCR has estimated that up to 3,500 inmates across the state would be eligible for expedited transition to parole. The latest release is of around 185 inmates from CDCR custody in Kern County. Officials said the department is preparing on-site multidisciplinary teams at each institution to expedite the pre-release coordination. Officials said review of potential expedited transition would first focus on those with less than 30 days to serve, then those with less than 60 days to serve. According to CDCR the returning individuals would be release to state parole or local probation supervision, or will discharge, depending on their individual sentence.

CDCR’s plan includes expediting the transition to parole for eligible inmates who have 60 days or less to serve on their sentences and are not currently serving time for a violent crime as defined by law, a sex offense, or domestic violence. Officials said this plan also includes making more use of the state’s private and public Community Correctional Facilities, as well maximizing open spaces in the prisons, such as gymnasiums, to increase capacity and inmate movement options.

In attempts to keep staff and inmates who will remain incarcerated safe CDCR has implemented an additional action plan which include several new measures. These new measures build on many others already taken to reduce the risk of COVID-19 to all who work and live in the state prison system. Those measures include:
o Mandatory verbal and temperature screenings for staff before they enter any institutions and other CDCR work sites
o Suspension of intake from county jails, projected to reduce the population by 3,000 within 30 days
o Suspension of visitation; inmates will get additional free phone calls to their loved ones, made available through a partnership with inmate telephone network provider Global Tel Link (GTL)  
o Suspension of access by volunteers and rehabilitative program providers
o Suspension of inmate movement, other than for critical purposes
o Measures to support increased physical distancing, including reducing the number of inmates who use common spaces at the same time
o Reinforced commitment to hygiene both institutional and personal, including greater availability of soap and hand sanitizer.
o Developed comprehensive health care guidelines based on CDC and CDPH recommendations for correctional settings, which includes procedures for infection control, assessment, testing, treatment, proper use of PPE and quarantine/isolation. Deployed educational materials for staff on the new guidelines, including posters, quick reference pocket guides, webinars and websites.
o Modified the delivery of non-emergent health care procedures such as routine dentals cleanings to redirect supplies of PPE. Created a network among all state-managed facilities to redirect PPE as needed.
o Created handouts, posters and continually updated video messaging for the population about COVID-19 and what CDCR and CCHCS is doing to respond to the virus.

As of April 27th, 2020, there were 178 inmates who have tested positive for COVID-19 and one death.

SB 1437- California’s Reformed Felony Murder Rule


By Sean R. Francis, President

Justice Solutions of America

For years in California, like in other states, the law allowed offenders to be charged with murder even if they were not the person who actually committed the murder. To illustrate, the felony murder rule works like this: If two people decide to commit a felony offense, like burglary, and in the process, one of the offender’s shoots and kills a victim, even if it was unintentional, both offenders can be charged with first-degree murder. It has been argued that the felony murder rule resulted in disproportionately long sentences for offenders who never actually killed anyone.

However, as of January 1, 2019, this has all changed and a new felony murder rule is in effect. With bi-partisan support, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law S.B. 1437. However, this new law is a little confusing and a lot of questions remain, so let’s explain exactly what this new law does. S.B. 1437 will no longer allow defendants who did not actually kill someone from being charged with murder. Moving forward only the actual killer will be held responsible for the murder.

So that’s it, right? Problem solved? Not quite. Under this new felony murder rule there will be circumstances in which a participant in a crime in which a murder occurred can still be held responsible for the murder, even if they did not actually kill the person. When a participant in a crime, with the intent to kill, aided, abetted, counseled, commanded, induced, solicited, requested, or assisted the actual killer or the person was a major participant in the underlying felony and acted with reckless indifference to human life, unless the victim was a peace officer who was killed in the course of performing his or her duties where the defendant knew or should reasonably have known the victim was a peace officer engaged in the performance of his or her duties, then they may still be charged with murder.

So, to break this down, two people break into a home and the homeowner is murdered by the defendant one, defendant two had no part in the killing. Under this scenario, only the actual killer will be held responsible. However, let’s keep this same scenario but now defendant two helps beat and tie the homeowner up while encouraging the defendant one to kill the witnesses. In this scenario, both defendants can be charged with murder. Make sense?

Also, if the victim is a police officer then all bets are off and both defendants will still be charged with murder regardless of intent. So, to make this simple, if during the commission of a felony a police officer dies all defendants will continue to be held criminally responsible for the murder, not just the actual killer.

A huge provision of the law is that it is retroactive, and it applies to offenders who accepted a plea deal. It has been estimated that over 800 people in California prisons for first-degree murder may be eligible for relief under the new law.

S.B. 1437 was not without its critics and opponents. The bill was opposed by the California District Attorneys Association and the California Sheriffs’ Association among others. Indeed, the San Diego District Attorney’s Office challenged the law on constitutional grounds.  Their argument was rejected by the 4th District Court of Appeal in 2019 and on February 20, 2020 the California Supreme Court refused to hear the case, essentially allowing the ruling to stand and for S.B. 1437 to go into full effect.

California Prison Consultants are not a law firm or an attorney referral service. This blog post was not written by an attorney.

#jsa #JusticeSolutionsOfAmerica #governmentshutdown #federalprison #prison #huffingtonpost #inmates



#jsa #JusticeSolutionsOfAmerica #governmentshutdown #federalprison #prison #huffingtonpost #inmates

#jsa #justicesolutionsofamerica #nyc #ny #federalprison # newyorkprison #governmentshutdown...



#jsa #justicesolutionsofamerica #nyc #ny #federalprison # newyorkprison #governmentshutdown #government #manhattan #federal

The First Step Act was signed into law. This bill will reduce sentences for thousands of defendants and prisoners. The First Step Act puts the focus back on rehabilitation […]
#JSA #FirstStepAct #Prison...

The First Step Act was signed into law. This bill will reduce sentences for thousands of defendants and prisoners. The First Step Act puts the focus back on rehabilitation […]


#JSA #FirstStepAct #Prison #Congress