First Step Act (FSA)*

Colette Peters, the new Bureau of Prisons director has created a lot of hope for change among staff, inmates, and congress alike.

Attempting to make actual culture change, actual improvements to the conditions of care and custody in a behemoth industry (the BOP) at best will not happen overnight, but Director Peters does present a pathway for optimism. Only time will tell.

There is some good news, separate from the First Step Act as President Biden announced the 2nd Chance Pell Grant Program For Education, which will be available starting 7/2023.



For a No Obligation Free Consult, Call me: at 240.888.7778, or through my email. I answer and personally return all of my calls,  but if I am unable to pick up your call, please leave a message as I attempt to return all of my calls that day.

We are not Attorneys, you need legal representation.

* While the FSA programs were initially meant for those already incarcerated, there are specific ones that have limited availability and are security-level specific.

Proactively understanding the nuances of the FSA is both complicated and unfortunately constantly ever-changing, but can still prove to be worthwhile …

  • If your client is a young male approximately 32 years old facing their first federal sentence,
    • The BRAVE Program is designed
      • for young males (Admission Criteria).
      • Predicted to serve at a BOP USP Medium Institution,
      • facing 60 months.
      • The program’s goal is to facilitate favorable adjustment and
      • reduce incidents of misconduct. 


  • If your client is either Autistic or has a Borderline Personality Disorder,
    • both under current treatment with
    • appropriate diagnosis coding, for each
    • the BOP has only 2 facility locations
    • for each individual, nationwide.
  • And if that is not limiting enough, they may be security level specific.


  • If your client is approaching Dementia or is currently being treated,
    • there is only 1 BOP location,
    • with 1 wing, and if I recall what I read last,
    • they have only 35 beds.

Referencing this if done before the PSI, could demonstrate good faith on the part of your client to the court, and significantly impact their future. 

I) FSA Needs Assessment Components(

II) EBRR, Evidence-Based Recidivism Reduction  

  • Anger Management (2022) Anger Management is a cognitive-behavioral curriculum designed to help individuals better manage their anger.
  • Apprenticeship Training (2022) Apprenticeship training prepares the student for employment in various trades through structured programs underneath a journeyman in that trade, approved at the state and national levels by the Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training, U.S. Department of Labor.
  • Assert Yourself for Female Offenders (2022) In this program, women learn to be assertive while respecting the boundaries of others.
  • Basic Cognitive Skills (2022) participants are taught basic concepts of cognitive-behavioral therapy, including the Five Rules for Rational Thinking and the use of Rational Self-Analysis (RSA).
  • BUREAU LITERACY PROGRAM (2022) The literacy curricula consist of an Adult Basic Education To Pass The General Educational Development (GED) Exam.
  • BRAVE Program ** (2022)Bureau Rehabilitation and Value Enhancement Program– a cognitive-behavioral, residential psychology counseling treatment program for young males serving 1st sentence, to create a smoother adjustment to prison. Medium Security, 32 years or younger with a sentence of 60 years or more.
  • Certification Course Training (2022) This program falls under three broad categories: 1) Apprenticeship Training, 2) Certification Course Training, and 3) Vocational Training.
  • Challenge (2022) ** – a program for male inmates in Penitentiary (High Security) facilities. Treats those with substance abuse and/or mental illness disorders (psychotic, mood, anxiety, or personality).
  • Cognitive Processing Therapy (2022) Cognitive Processing Therapy is an evidence-based intervention for the treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.
  • Criminal Thinking (2022) The purpose of the Criminal Thinking program is to help the participants see how their past decisions have negatively impacted their lives.
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (2022) for individuals who engage in self-directed violence, such as self-cutting, suicidal thoughts, urges, and suicide attempts.
  • Emotional Self-Regulation (2022) Emotional Self-Regulation helps participants explore the emotions and patterns of behavior, and learn strategies for managing difficult emotions.
  • Federal Prison Industries, FPI (UNICOR) 2022 – preparing for successful reentry through job training.
  • Female Integrated Treatment (FIT) Program ** (2022) For female inmates with substance use, trauma (PTSD), and other mental illnesses. For those who are eligible for RDAP, this program is now available onsite so there is no need for an extra needless transfer.
  • Foundation Program (2022) For women 1st entering the BOP, helping them consider programs and services to ensure positive changes during their stay. The Change Plan (PA) works on the goals that were established in the Foundation.
  • Illness Management and Recovery (2022) IMR is considered a front-line intervention for the treatment of serious mental illness.
  • Life Connections Program (LCP) 2022 – a residential faith-based program, not religion specific.
  • Mental Health Step Down Program ** (2022) This residential program offers an intermediate level of care for inmates with serious mental illness, who do not require inpatient treatment but lack the skills to function in the general population.
  • Money Smart for Adults (2022) An instructor-led course that covers basic financial topics.
  • Money Smart for Older Adults (2022) Provides awareness among older adults on how to prevent elder financial exploitation and encourages advance planning as you age.
  • National Parenting From Prison Program (2022) Is a two-phase model, focusing on services for incarcerated parents. Phase I focuses on parenting basics. Phase II focuses on specific parenting needs such as parenting an incarcerated mother, father, or grandparent, or parenting a child with a disability.
  • Non-Residential Drug Abuse Program, (2022) – a program requirement for supervised release or through judicial recommendation; where there is a substance abuse offense.
  • Post Secondary Education Program (2022) College-level classes are provided by credentialed instructors from the community who deliver coursework leading to either the Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree.
  • Residential Drug Abuse Program, RDAP ** (2022) – an intensive treatment program where offenders experience living in a pro-social community. Available in Spanish. 2018 Current RDAP Locations.
  • Resolve Program (2022) – a program for those with a Mental Health Diagnosis-related to trauma. Designed to decrease the incidence of trauma-related psychological disorders – to improve a person’s (male or female) level of functioning.
  • Seeking Safety (Female) and Seeking Strength (Male) (2022) This intervention teaches inmates to manage and decrease symptoms and gain control over both disorders by addressing current life problems.
  • Sex Offender Treatment Program, Residential (SOTP-R) 2022, a history of multiple sexual offenses, and/or a high level of sexual deviancy.
  • Sex Offender Treatment Program Non-Residential (SOTP-NR) 2022, has a history of a single sexual offense and many may be first-time offenders serving a sentence for an Internet-based sexual crime.
  • STAGES Program, Residential ** (2022) A residential Psychology Treatment Program for inmates with a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder.
  • Skills Program, Residential ** (2022) A program for inmates with intellectual disabilities, neurological deficits, and social deficiencies (ie: Autistic). Participation can be at the beginning of their incarceration but can be at any time and ongoing.
  • Social Skills Training (2022) Although designed for individuals suffering from schizophrenia, this resource is appropriate for any inmate with moderate social skills deficits.
  • Threshold Program (2022) The Threshold Program is a non-residential faith-based reentry program, like the more intensive Life Connections Program, it is open to inmates across the BOP regardless of religious affiliation.
  • Vocational Training (2022) This program combines three broad categories: 1) Apprenticeship Training, 2) Certification Course Training, and 3) Vocational Training.
  • Woman’s Career Exploration Series (2022) Teaches strategies to help women succeed in the workplace and offers insights to assist women to overcome employment barriers and move forward toward success in a long-term career.
  • Women’s Basic Financial Literacy Program (2022) This program targets the financial deficits incarcerated women face as they prepare for reentering back into society.


III) PA, Productive Activities


EBRR, Sex Offender Programs:

Psychology Internship Programs are available at Butner N.C.

  • Butner’s Commitment and Treatment Program for Sexually Dangerous Persons
    • The internship component of the Psychology Service strives to meet the training needs of doctoral candidates in applied psychology through supervised experience, didactic programs, and focused scholarship. The FCC Butner internship integrated a practitioner-scholar model which seeks “the productive interaction of theory and practice in a primarily practice-based approach to inquiry” (Hoshmand and Polinghorne, 1992). A
      • FCI-I Butner’s SOTP was recently replaced by the Commitment and Treatment Program (CTP) for Sexually Dangerous Persons (i.e., treatment for civilly committed offenders), which is responsible for the psychological treatment of the inmate, implementation of behavior management plans, and coordination of the multidisciplinary treatment team. Treatment is holistic and multidimensional with the ultimate goal of reducing sexual dangerousness and criminal recidivism potential.
      • The Forensic Evaluation Service conducts psychological evaluations and provides documentation pursuant to civil commitment hearings, subsequent progress reviews, and other reports.
    • Butner FMC Services-Healthcare in Federal Prison
      • Care Level Three inmates (chronically mentally ill persons) who can function adequately on an outpatient basis are housed throughout the complex.
      • The Inpatient Forensic program at the FMC accepts inmates at the discretion of the federal courts for various pre-and post-trial forensic evaluations (e.g., competence, sanity, violence risk), for voluntary hospitalization for mental health treatment, or subject to federal quasi-criminal commitment. Staff, including interns (with supervision), provide expert testimony in federal courts throughout the United States when called upon to do so.
      • The behavioral Medicine program involves working with inmates who present with psychophysiological disorders, psychological factors affecting their physical conditions, and/or physical conditions that have psychological sequelae. Staff may provide group and individual treatment for psychophysiological disorders, including hypertension, chronic pain, tension and migraine headaches, anxiety disorders, etc., and inmates with terminal or severe diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, and AIDS. Staff also assist in the implementation of the Palliative Care Program for terminally ill patients nearing death.

The New Reality of the FSA

If your client is counting on the FSA Programs to expedite their release, while in some prisons they may find themselves successful, while in others,

  • The risk assessment test is not yet available
  • the programs they need are either not taking in new inmates due to overcrowding, or
  • they’re just closed due to a lack of staff and they now
  • find themselves stuck in a system not knowing why, without any direction.

Not a good combination, but still,

  • The BOP eventually will retroactively provide the time-off relief that so many are looking for
  • Whether that is in time for your family member or client who is itching to get out – I can sympathize as I’ve been there, but only time will tell
    • the FSA is a Huge Undertaking, and the government doesn’t always move in a timely fashion
    • Unfortunately life in prison, possibly like the military, is becoming comfortable – with being – uncomfortable.

If You Suspect You’re The Target of a Federal Investigation | Before The Presentence Interview (PSI) | After The PSI – But Before The Sentencing Hearing | After Sentencing or You’re Already Incarcerated | There Are Still Things We Can Do


For additional information on these programs: Contact the Reentry Services Division (RSD) by sending an email to: BOP-RSD-NRB-FSA@BOP.GOV. Sarah Qureshi, Office of General Counsel, Bureau of Prisons, phone (202) 353-8248.

It appears that parts of the First Step Act may not yet be 100% up and running uniformly across all BOP (and contracted) facilities since its 2018 creation.