This bill — the FIRST STEP Act — would implement reforms to the federal prison system to control corrections spending, manage the prison population, provide educational and vocational training to inmates so they can successfully reenter society, and reduce recidivism.
The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) would be required to conduct risk- and needs-assessments for every offender upon sentencing and offer individualized, evidence-based recidivism reduction plans to all inmates. Programs could include vocational training, educational support, substance abuse treatment, mental healthcare, anger management courses, faith-based initiatives or other proven resources.
Inmates would be able to earn credits toward an alternative custody arrangement — such as a halfway house or home confinement — at the end of their prison sentences. Certain criminals would be ineligible for the alternative custody program, including high-risk sexual offenders, murderers, and others.
The BOP would be required to provide a secure storage area outside the secure perimeter for employees to store firearms or to allow for vehicle lock boxes for firearms so corrections officers can protect themselves if they’re ambushed when leaving work. BOP would also be required to offer de-escalation training as part of the regular training requirements of correctional officers.
The federal prison industries program would be expanded to provide more employment opportunities for inmates. BOP would be required to start pilot programs for youth mentorship and the training and therapy of rescue dogs, and it would also have to evaluate the current pilot program to treat heroin and opioid abuse through medication assisted treatment.
The bill also contains several reforms aimed at improving conditions for inmates, such as:
The compassionate elderly release provision of the Second Chance Act, which allows the prisoner to request his or her compassionate release if they meet the law’s requirements, would be reauthorized.
BOP rules on the use of restraints on pregnant inmates — which generally prohibit the use of restraints on pregnant inmates except for those who are an immediate and credible flight risk or threat of harm to herself, the baby, or others — would be codified into law.
BOP would be required to place prisoners at a correctional facility within 500 driving miles of their primary residence that’s as close to home as possible, unless the prisoner chooses to remain at their current facility.
The bill’s full title is the Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person Act.