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What the FIRST STEP Act means for previously incarcerated individuals

On Dec. 21, 2018, the Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person, or FIRST STEP Act, was signed into law. This piece of bipartisan legislation is (literally) the FIRST STEP in transforming prisons into facilities that will reduce recidivism and strengthen our communities and economy. 

The legislation increases funding for vocational and rehabilitative programming, reduces mandatory sentence length for drug-related offenses, allows inmates to reduce their sentence through good behavior and adds humanitarian restrictions, among other things. But, what does that technically look like and how will it affect incarcerated individuals?

The program is founded on increased assessment and inmate grouping. As of Jan. 15, 2020, the Prisoner Assessment Tool Targeting Estimated Risk and Needs, or PATTERN, was implemented in all federal facilities to assess individuals’ risks and needs. This information is then used to provide recommendations on recidivism reduction programs and productive activities. As a part of the FIRST STEP Act, the Bureau of Prisons was allocated $50 million to increase prison programming through outside partnerships with nonprofit and faith-based organizations like HopeWorks. 

Based on risk level, conviction and good conduct, completion in these programs could result in rewards such as increased phone and visitation privileges, additional funds for commissary spending, the opportunity to serve time closer to home, at-home sentence completion or at a residential re-entry center, or a 12-month sentence reduction. As the program progresses, PATTERN will continue to evolve.

With the need for reformational programs rising, organizations are expanding their offerings to meet the request for services. At HopeWorks, we’ve continued to grow our staff, update our curriculum and offer the courses necessary to prepare our students for life after incarceration.

If you have questions about any of our programs or are interested in discussing the possibility of a loved one enrolling, please give us a call at 901-272-3700.