Thousands of federal inmates still await early release under Trump-era law, advocates say

7/3/2022 7:22:00 PM

The Justice Department implemented a key feature of the law in which inmates can earn so-called time credits. But there have been failures, prisoner advocates and inmates say.


Thousands of nonviolent federal prisoners eligible for early release under the Trump-era First Step Act remain locked up years after the law was passed due to inadequate implementation and delays. “Here we are, four years later, and it’s maddening.”

The Justice Department implemented a key feature of the law in which inmates can earn so-called time credits. But there have been failures, prisoner advocates and inmates say.

Then-Missouri state Rep. Courtney Allen Curtis speaks on the House floor in Jefferson City in 2015.The Justice Department declined to comment on Curtis’ case, citing privacy reasons.“We estimate that there are thousands of inmates who will not receive the full benefit — days off of their federal prison sentence — of the First Step Act simply because the agency is uncertain how to calculate these benefits,” said Walter Pavlo, president of the consulting firm Prisonology LLC, whose experts include former Bureau of Prisons case managers, wardens and sentence computation professionals.

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If it had been an honest election those in charge could’ve completed it. Was a work in progress and with this election, ALL progress has been halted. In other words Biden wants them to remain in prison because it was Trump's idea. Not sure what they expect from the oaf that doesn’t and never really cared..

NBC crickets🤐 Flashback Lawyers for California Attorney General Kamala Harris argued in court this fall against the release of eligible nonviolent prisoners from California's overcrowded prisons — because the state wanted to keep them as a labor force. Liberals don’t want to release Pot heads Trump got his big photo op and immediately forgot that it takes work and competent bureaucrats to implement laws.

How many 'terrorists' are still 'detained' at Gitmo? Imagine that

Trump considering early 2024 announcement amid opposition from other Republicans: reportsRepublican strategist suggest former President Trump could be nearing an announcement for a 2024 bid for the White House as he faces opposition from many his own party. Trump just turned 76! Those elephants can't find someone a lot younger and with a lot less baggage? Yeah, get in before the inditements. Total last ditch effort. Can't even love himself,since he don't like losers.

Trump mulls early 2024 announcement as Biden's popularity slumpsSources say that the prospect of an imminent announcement of a presidential run by Donald Trump mirrored what happened in 2016, with plans changing and no one knowing for sure what was happening. Take the attention away from the the Criminal Enterprise being possibly indicted .🤷🏿‍♂️ Trump will announce his run only after he thinks the fix is in and he definitely will win by cheating. Yeah bring on the Golden showers pee tape star maybe he can drive his limousine with the blondes in the back

Trump mulls early 2024 announcement with July on the table: ReportFormer President Donald Trump is apparently eyeing an early 2024 announcement in an attempt to win back the White House — and it could come in the next few days. Sure, let him run again. All we will hear about is the lie about a stolen election. A great agenda for the Republican Party. Good luck GOP. based Oh boy. Here we go.

Trump weighs early 2024 launch as January 6 committee looms over his futureFormer President Donald Trump is anxiously mulling when, exactly, he should announce a presidential run for 2024 -- a decision that has become even more pressing as he tries to reclaim control of his image following a spate of damaging revelations by the House select committee investigating his role in January 6, 2021. $$$ There’s not one publicly traded company that would hire Trump as their CEO. Quick, get that money from the Trump cult before you go to jail.

What polls say about Trump 2024 run as ex-president considers early launchTrump said Saturday that he is winning 'by really big, record type, numbers,' but polls show he and President Joe Biden would be set for a close race. Trump lying? No way Stupid still says he won last time, too. Math and civics just ain't that boy's long suits. Lying and criming seem to be specialties, though. America loosing its credibility and global influence because she is intent on protecting a criminal who undermined her democracy. It’s such a beautiful thing to witness

Trump Eyes Early 2024 Announcement as Jan. 6 Scrutiny IntensifiesRepublicans are bracing for Donald Trump to announce an unusually early bid for the White House, a move designed in part to shield Trump from a stream of damaging Jan. 6 revelations. In what world does he think he has a chance of winning? 🙄🤦‍♂️ fguzmanon7 Fake News. Where is Hunter? Did Ashley Biden's dad really shower with her? He won’t! Cause then he could no longer do what he want with the donations 🤡

prison and work programs and calculated as part of the process of getting out early.told The Associated Press that voters are"concerned" with whether Trump could pull off an election victory in 2024.Republicans are"bracing" themselves for the former president to announce"an unusually early bid for the White House" which could divert attention from allegations about his alleged attempts to cling on to power after losing to Biden in the 2020 presidential election.Behind the scenes, Trump is mulling an early entry into the 2024 fray to capitalize on lackluster polling for President Joe Biden and deter any stiff GOP primary competition, prompting concerns from Republicans that he could overshadow their midterm efforts, CNN reported.

The problem, advocates say: They are identifying inmates whose time credits aren’t getting applied, and in some cases, the inmates aren’t getting released as early as they should be. Courtney Curtis, a former Missouri state lawmaker who was sentenced last year to 21 months in federal prison for wire fraud related to the misallocation of campaign funds, said in a letter shared with NBC News that his time credits have not been adequately counted after participating in programs such as “Be Successful,” “Drug Education” and “Talk to your Dr. Similarly, Maryland Gov.” Then-Missouri state Rep. Right-wing broadcaster Alex Jones even told viewers on Infowars that Trump could announce his candidacy on July 4. Courtney Allen Curtis speaks on the House floor in Jefferson City in 2015. "His approval among Republican primary voters has already been somewhat diminished," Hogan said in an interview with The Associated Press. Tim Bommel / Missouri House of Representatives via AP Curtis, 41, who is being held in the Federal Correctional Institution Elkton in Ohio, said he hasn’t had his time credits added since January, and if they were, he believes he would have been released in early June. 6 committee's public hearings that have focused on his behavior during his waning White House days and his efforts to challenge the 2020 election results.

His current release date is Oct." Also echoing comments from Hogan and Christie is Marc Short, who served as chief of staff to former Vice President Mike Pence , an individual considered by many to be a likely 2024 Republican candidate. Getty Images However, some in Trump's orbit have warned him the infrastructure is not yet in place for a major campaign announcement and that he"doesn't want this to be a dud," CNN reported. 22. “As one of the many inmates that benefit from the FSA,” he wrote, referring to the First Step Act, “I’ve made strides to take classes, work and stay productive, but the BOP and its systemic way of operating inefficiently have stymied my ability to take the most amount of classes in an orderly fashion as prescribed in the FSA or to release me as soon as I should’ve been … I can only wonder if this is by design, and what the total extent of impacted inmates is. 23, 2021.” The Justice Department declined to comment on Curtis’ case, citing privacy reasons. CNN said that some Trump allies have said that the public hearings into Trump's alleged role in the U. Data provided by the Bureau of Prisons shows that as of June 18, more than 8,600 inmates have had their sentences recalculated and are slated for release with the application of their time credits."Now, the dynamic is reversed. Some in his orbit fear that he does not yet have the necessary campaign infrastructure to mount a third bid for the White House just yet.

But it’s unclear how many qualified inmates are entitled to have been released early but remain incarcerated. In a response, bureau officials said “We have no data which suggests inmates had their release dates delayed." BILL MAHER: TRUMP COULD WIN 2024 ‘SO EASY’ IF HE'D ‘JUST LET GO’ OF 2020 Jason Shepherd, a Georgia Republican Party state committeeman and a former aide to Newt Gingrich, said voters will have a wide-variety of candidates to choose from in the 2024 election, suggesting that Trump could have trouble garnering the nomination outright.” But with the bureau’s own data identifying about 66,600 inmates who are eligible to earn time credits, some industry experts disagree. “We estimate that there are thousands of inmates who will not receive the full benefit — days off of their federal prison sentence — of the First Step Act simply because the agency is uncertain how to calculate these benefits,” said Walter Pavlo, president of the consulting firm Prisonology LLC, whose experts include former Bureau of Prisons case managers, wardens and sentence computation professionals. Likely to face opposition from many within his own party over a run for president in 2024 , Trump is sure to have the backing of several prominent Republicans. Calculating time credits Holly Harris, a longtime Republican strategist who pushed for passage of the First Step Act as head of the nonpartisan Justice Action Network, said the change in administrations is no excuse for a slow rollout." However, some Republicans have been fretting that an early Trump entry could suck the oxygen away from important midterm races as they face a tough battle to reclaim the Senate.

“Not only that, but the Biden administration ran on criminal justice reform, and now we can’t get answers for anything,” she said, adding that she hopes Carvajal’s replacement will “dig in quickly and prioritize those individuals who are just languishing in prison needlessly to the unnecessary expense of the taxpayer. Lindsey Graham, R-S.” In 2018, then-President Donald Trump signed the bipartisan First Step Act as a way to reduce recidivism and ease the federal prison population, which has fallen in recent years but still includes more than 140,000 inmates currently in custody. In particular, the law’s supporters believe it can cut particularly harsh sentences for nonviolent drug offenders and lessen the racial disparities affecting people of color in the criminal justice system., who often saw eye to eye with Trump and sometimes pushed back on statements from the former president that he disagreed with, insisted that Trump's success if he should run will depend on what he says and how he acts. President Donald Trump, with Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, by his side, signs the First Step Act on Dec. "It’s up to him if he runs or not," Graham said in an interview shared by the Times. RNC officials have stressed that the party will cut off its funding of his legal bills pertaining to a New York attorney general inquiry, but McDaniel has recently concluded he will make an early entry anyways, according to the outlet.

21, 2018. Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post via Getty Images file Within the law’s first year, more than 3,000 inmates were released from prison early, according to the Justice Department, with the total now more than 7,500 inmates." Several potential 2024 candidates have vowed not to challenge Trump should he run for re-election, including Nikki Haley , the former governor of South Carolina who served as ambassador to the United Nations under Trump. An inmate’s eligibility is measured by an algorithm known as the Prisoner Assessment Tool Targeting Estimated Risk and Needs, or PATTERN, scoring them in different categories, including their history of violence and whether they’ve been involved in serious incidents while incarcerated, to determine if they might re-offend. In order to collect time credits for early release under the First Step Act, inmates must be at a “minimum” or “low” risk of re-offending and not have been convicted of certain serious crimes. Nikki Haley, the former Governor of South Carolina and Ambassador to the UN, speaks in Virginia on July 14, 2021. Time credits are granted based on an inmate’s participation in prison and work programs over a 30-day period related to anger management, mental health, financial literacy and other topics that seek to address behavior and instill personal skills. "I do not think he will run in 2024.

Once the credits are calculated and it is determined those credits equal the time left on the sentence, the inmate can be transferred out of prison into “pre-release custody,” such as a halfway house or home confinement."I’ll put 1,000% in and I’ll finish it. Some may also be eligible for supervised release like probation. But prisoner advocacy groups say the availability of these rehabilitation programs varies widely depending on the prison, which means some inmates simply can’t access enough earned time credits.". The situation has worsened because of staffing shortages amid the Covid pandemic . In addition, some inmates say, even if they’ve taken the appropriate classes, their time credits aren’t being regularly calculated, potentially delaying their ability to get released sooner. He'll talk about it insistently.

The Justice Department’s final rule also allows for time credits to be counted retroactively for any prison and work programs inmates participated in after the First Step Act became law in 2018. But Pavlo said the Bureau of Prisons never had the mechanisms in place to adequately track inmates’ participation and he is concerned the agency “is not facilitating the timely calculation and application of time credits in accordance with the final rule, forcing inmates to serve custodial terms longer than required.” In the cases he’s reviewed, he said he has seen inmates in prison from six months up to a year who could have had either an earlier release or time in pre-release custody. “The biggest problem is nobody on the front lines seems to understand the new rule,” Pavlo said. “There needs to be a task force on this now.

” Revising the algorithm The Justice Department said it is continuing to evaluate its use of the PATTERN algorithm after concerns by advocates that some risk categories that the tool examines are believed to exacerbate racial disparities. The agency’s statistics published in November found that about 55 percent of white inmates were classified as “minimum” or “low” risk for recidivism compared to about 28 percent of Black inmates. In its 2022 annual report examining the effectiveness of the First Step Act, the Justice Department said it was implementing another updated version of PATTERN “in an effort to mitigate against various racial and ethnic disparities associated with prior risk level categories.” But Jim Felman, a Florida criminal defense attorney who has examined the First Step Act, said more transparency is needed about how the algorithm is being tweaked to ensure that prisoners of color aren’t at a disadvantage, particularly since Black people and Latinos remain overrepresented in U.S.

prisons. The federal government has “shown the world how we lead in imprisonment, but we can also show the world how to lead in getting people out,” he said. “Why wouldn’t we let every mathematician in the world see our data so we can evaluate how racist any new version of the tool might be?” The Bureau of Prisons reiterated in an email that Attorney General Merrick Garland has “directed the continued study of the tool to improve the equitability, efficiency, and predictive validity of the risk assessment system.” Dianthe Brooks is advocating on behalf of inmates to ensure they understand their rights under the law. José A.

Alvarado Jr. for NBC News The frustration has been felt by former incarcerated prisoners like Dianthe Brooks, 52, who in 2018 received a four-year sentence after pleading guilty to wire fraud in a million-dollar kickback scheme. She said she was released early from prison in Danbury, Connecticut, to home confinement in 2020 because she has underlying medical conditions that put her at higher risk for Covid. But it wasn’t until her time credits were recalculated in January under the Biden administration’s renewed efforts that her ankle monitor was removed. She believes that would have happened in June 2021 based on her time credits if the program had been running as intended.

Now, Brooks is advocating on behalf of other inmates at Danbury and across the country to ensure they understand their rights under the law. “It’s still vague how they’re calculating time,” she said. “Nobody can give you a manual for here are the classes that qualify, the credit you’ll get and here’s how they’re applied. That doesn’t exist. So how do I even know if my time was calculated correctly?” Alice Phillips.

José A. Alvarado Jr. for NBC News Another former Danbury inmate and prisoner advocate, Alice Phillips, said she was surprised to learn that after working in the prison grounds crew, the manual labor ultimately didn’t qualify for time credits. She said she was given no guidance by the prison, other than being told in December 2019 that she was a minimum-risk offender eligible under the First Step Act. Phillips, 56, who received a two-year sentence in 2019 after she was convicted of wire fraud related to a real estate scheme, was also released to home confinement in 2020 because of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act .

She said she continued to work during home confinement in prison-approved jobs, but those time credits were never counted as they would be now, leaving her probationary period to last until 2024, instead of 2023. Prison officials at Danbury declined to comment about specific inmate allegations, but said in a statement that they communicate “essential information” in several ways, including through computer announcements, one-on-one program review appointments and town hall meetings, and “each inmates’ release date is calculated in accordance with federal statutes.” But Phillips believes the First Step Act hasn't lived up to its promise for everyone. “I behaved. I did the work.

I qualified for these credits,” she said. “I’m not free, but I could be free sooner.” .