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5 Things That Have Changed in the last 5 years

There are several good prison consultants to choose from. The prison consultant you use to navigate the road of Federal Prison, will depend on your case, your needs and your finances. But one thing that you need to be aware of is how long the consultant has been removed from the Federal Prison system. Also, be aware that a “state” prison consultant definitely won’t know the intricacies of Federal Prison.

For the most part, for decades things have stayed the same in Federal Prison however in the last five years there have been a fair amount of changes. It’s one thing to learn about the changes through reading or contacts inside, but has your consultant lived through them?

Here are just 5 of the changes from the last 5 years:

  • Phone calls are still free. In 2020 the BOP made calls free during the CARES act because visitation was severely limited. Inmates received 510 free minutes per month and once those minute are gone they’re gone. When Colette Peters took over the BOP she said she would like to keep phone calls free as they help strengthen family bonds. So far, as of this posting, and 2 years after COVID phone calls are still free.
  • The First Step Act was signed into law in December 2018. The BOP finally started acting on it in January 2022. The First Step Act is an ever changing organism in the BOP despite the fact it’s a law and the language unambiguous. In 3 different institutions that I’ve personally been to, FSA time credits were credited differently. I was the 8th person out of the BOP in 2022 on First Step Act. Unfortunately I violated shortly after. However even on my violation I earned 5 months credit. You’ll see from my docket that I had my revocation hearing in October 2022, I was sentenced to 23 months on the violation and was home in March 2024.
  • The 821 amendments were passed and there are more amendments on the way. In 2021 after President Biden took over he sat a full United States Sentencing Commission for the first time in years. They finally had enough commissioners for a quorum and with that they passed the 821 amendment a 3 part amendment giving a 2 point downward departure under certain circumstances for first time non-violent offenders, inmates who received status points at sentencing and certain marijuana offenders.
  • The FRP program was significantly changed. Currently, under a new change implemented by Director Peters after it appeared in the Federal Register, the BOP can take up to 50% of an inmates trust fund per month. This has been implemented at several (not all) BOP institutions, but it’s on the way.
  • The First Step Act calls for up to a year of credit applied to an entire sentence (off the back) as long as the inmate has a term of supervised release to follow. The rest of the time is to be applied to RRC or Home Confinement with no actual limit in the legislation. This is being interpreted differently at each institution. For example, coming from Butner I met up with some friends of mine from FPC Montgomery who were at the halfway house. They had received 18 months of halfway house. I know a guy at Yazoo who received 24 months halfway house and at Butner the most anyone received was 12 months.
  • As a bonus (and there are several others) the BOP made significant changes to the Programming Statement on Discipline in the last year. Some of those changes included increasing the penalty for cell phones, a sanction for social media and a stiffer penalty for inmates asking other inmates for their paperwork for the purpose of extortion.

I once saw a prison consultant’s social media post where they talked about a $280 limit in commissary and 300 minutes of phone time. The limit for commissary has been $360 for at least the last 10 years. As insignificant as that may seem, for some families that’s a big deal.

Another big thing you will always hear me say is that “all federal prisons are different” while there will be a separate post about that, just like in the scenario I described about halfway house, each Prison takes the BOP programming statements and applies them their way. In that regard, Programming Statements are just guidelines and inmates rarely win on Habeas challenging programming statements. Visitation, Commissary limits, lights out and several other policies vary from institution to institution.

Please check out this post about prison consultants and if we can help you email postconvictionwork@gmail.com or call 407-735-6995