First Step Act Programs (FSA)*

II) FSA Needs Assessment Components (
III) EBRR, Evidence-Based Recidivism Reduction
IV) PA, Productive Activities
V) The New Reality of The FSA


Be Prepared When Requesting To Answer Your SPARC-13 Assessment Survey, Survey Pdf Questions then, weaving your answers into your Reentry/Release Plan – before your Presentence Interview.

In this video, I discuss the steps to prepare for your Presentence Interview and explain that once you are incarcerated, you must advocate for yourself through personal growth, self-learning, and taking advantage of all Fiest Step Act Programs – documenting your new knowledge along the way. Your lawyers will not be present to assist you. I delve deeper into this and provide further insights in this video.



10/27/2023 Update: FIVE YEARS LATER, BOP STILL DOESN’T HAVE FIRST STEP ACT CREDITS that predict when a prisoner will leave BOP custody for halfway house or home confinement (HH/HC).

3/8/2023: The BOP is now in its third iteration of the FSA calculation of your Earned Time Credits (ETC). According to a recent Forbes article, they have decided not to count the first assessment towards ETC, done within 30 days of arrival at the prison. Instead, 15 days/month can only be earned after the first year (or three assessments later) – on the BOP new time clock.

In addition to those incarcerated hoping to benefit from the FSA, this act has added the financial burden back to taxpayers and appears to conflict with the law’s intent as Congress intended—so stay tuned and keep the faith!

* While the FSA programs were initially meant for those already incarcerated, there are specific ones with limited availability and are security-level specific. These are mental health oriented.

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

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. 

Call 240.888.7778 for a personal one-on-one call
to discuss your current issue or that of a loved one. -Marc Blatstein




Violent Additional Score Points

This video reviews the Alternative Benefits of Pattern Scoring.

II) FSA Needs Assessment Components (

  1. Anger | Hostility Temperamental and antisocial personality, including anger and hostility.
  2. Antisocial Peers Associating primarily with peers involved in criminal behavior puts one at a higher risk of sharing in that behavior. Over time, incarcerated individuals lose contact with their prosocial support system, leaving them without a network to help reinforce appropriate behaviors. To Reduce association with antisocial peers and enhance contact with prosocial support.
  3. Cognitions are assessed using the Measures of Criminal Attitudes and Associates (MCAA; Mills & Kroner, 2001) assessment. The MCAA is used to assess the needs of Antisocial Peers and Cognition.
  4. Dyslexia needs must be assessed with measures that meet certain specifications outlined in the FSA. The BOP instituted a two-phase screening process. First, all inmates complete a screening instrument that examines symptoms across functional domains. Inmates who reach the threshold are then administered the Woodcock-Johnson IV, a reliable and psychometrically robust test capable of a formal diagnosis.
  5. Education The Education Need is assessed by the presence or absence of a high school diploma or its equivalent. The Test of Adult Base Education (TABE) and the Comprehensive Adult Student Assessments (CASAS) are used to assess the literacy level.
  6. FAMILY/PARENTING  Research has found links between family environment and criminal lifestyle.
  7. FINANCE/POVERTY There is a direct correlation between poverty and criminality.
  8. MEDICAL is assessed through a history drawn from PSI (which comes from the PSR) documents and an in-person interview and physical performed by a medical practitioner at a BOP institution.
  9. MENTAL HEALTH Psychology Services Inmate Questionnaire (PSIQ)
    • PsiqA Cbr Approach To The Mental Health Area
    • If your client is approaching Dementia or is currently being treated,
      • Fay Spence and I are proud to have contributed two chapters to REPRESENTING PEOPLE WITH DEMENTIA, PublishedABA.
        • What Is Dementia? Page 1, Dr. Marc Blatstein, and Faye Spence, Esq.
        • Jail and Prison Conditions, Page 155, Dr. Marc Blatstein, and Faye Spence, Esq.
      • There is only 1 BOP location,
      • with one wing; if I recall what I read last,
      • they have only a limited number of beds.
    • 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 two facility locations,
      • If that is not limiting enough, they are security-level-specific.
    • 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.
  11. SUBSTANCE USE associated with criminality.
  12. TRAUMA is assessed using the Adverse Childhood Experiences Scale.
  13. WORK [vocational training and job readiness programs, for example, 2019 FCI Englewood Computer-Aided Design (CAD)]

III) EBRR, Evidence-Based Recidivism Reduction  

  • Anger Management Anger Management is a cognitive-behavioral curriculum designed to help individuals better manage their anger.
  • Apprenticeship Training 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 In this program, women learn to be assertive while respecting the boundaries of others.
  • BARTON READING AND SPELLING SYSTEM It was designed with adults in mind because it is never too late to significantly
  • Basic Cognitive Skills participants are taught basic concepts of cognitive-behavioral therapy, including the Five Rules for Rational Thinking and the use of Rational Self-Analysis (RSA).
  • BE- ACTIV is a psychosocial treatment program for depression in aging adults residing in nursing care center settings.
  • BUREAU LITERACY PROGRAM The literacy curricula consist of an Adult Basic Education To Pass The General Educational Development (GED) Exam.
  • BRAVE Program**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 This program falls under three broad categories: 1) Apprenticeship Training, 2) Certification Course Training, and 3) Vocational Training.
  • Challenge** – 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 BEHAVIORAL THERAPY FOR CHRONIC PAIN Through the ten skills-based therapy sessions, individuals will begin to develop the skills necessary to gain a sense of control over their chronic pain. 
  • COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY FOR LATE-LIFE DEPRESSION for aging adults with depression or depressive symptoms. This program may be completed in an individual or group setting.
  • Cognitive Processing Therapy Cognitive Processing Therapy is an evidence-based intervention for treating Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.
  • Criminal Thinking 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 for individuals who engage in self-directed violence, such as self-cutting, suicidal thoughts, urges, and suicide attempts.
  • Emotional Self-Regulation Emotional Self-Regulation helps participants explore the emotions and patterns of behavior and learn strategies for managing difficult emotions.
  • ENGLISH-AS-A-SECOND LANGUAGE** is an English language education study program for non-native speakers.
  • FAITH-BASED CONFLICT MANAGEMENT (FBCM) PROGRAM students will use practical spiritual principles and practices to strengthen their anger management, interpersonal communication, and conflict resolution techniques.
  • FAMILY PROGRAMMING SERIES The program is designed to support participants in strengthening family relationships during incarceration and after release. The program consists of a Women’s Family Program Series and a Men’s Family Program Series designed to address the unique challenges offenders and families face during incarceration.
  • Federal Prison Industries, FPI (UNICOR)  – preparing for successful reentry through job training.
  • Female Integrated Treatment (FIT) Program ** For female inmates with substance use, trauma (PTSD), and other mental illnesses. For those eligible for RDAP, this program is now available onsite, so there is no need for an extra needless transfer.
  • Foundation Program: This program is for women first entering the BOP. It helps them consider programs and services to ensure positive changes during their stay. The Change Plan (PA) works on the goals established by the Foundation.
  • FUNCTIONAL ADAPTATION SKILLS TRAINING (FAST) FAST aims to improve independence and quality of life by targeting six areas of everyday functioning: medication management, social and communication skills, organization and planning, transportation, and financial management.
  • HOOKED ON PHONICS Note: Hooked on Phonics is not the Bureau-designated EBRR program for dyslexia; rather, The Barton Reading and Spelling System is to be implemented for students who have been identified with characteristics of the condition of dyslexia.
  • Illness Management and Recovery  IMR is considered a front-line intervention for treating serious mental illness.
  • Life Connections Program (LCP) is a residential faith-based program that is not religion-specific.
  • Mental Health Step Down Program ** This residential program offers intermediate 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: An instructor-led course that covers basic financial topics.
  • Money Smart for Older Adults  Provides awareness among older adults on preventing elder financial exploitation and encourages advanced planning as you age.
  • The National Parenting From Prison Program is a two-phase model that focuses on services for incarcerated parents. Phase I focuses on parenting basics, while 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 – a program requirement for supervised release or through judicial recommendation where there is a substance abuse offense.
  • Post Secondary Education Program 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 ** – an intensive treatment program where offenders experience living in a pro-social community. Available in Spanish. 2018 Current RDAP Locations.
  • Resolve Program  – a program for those with a Mental Health diagnosis related to trauma and designed to decrease the incidence of trauma-related psychological disorders – to improve a person’s (male or female) level of functioning.
  • RESOURCE TOOLS FOR REENTRY FOR TRANSGENDER INDIVIDUALS The program is designed to help prepare transgender participants for the challenges of reintegrating into society in the topics of ID documentation, housing, employment, healthcare, and mental health.
  • Seeking Safety (Female) and Seeking Strength (Male)  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), is a program for high-risk sex offenders, available during the last 36 months of their sentence, who have a history of multiple sex crimes, excessive non-sexual criminal history, and a high level of sexual deviancy or hyper-sexuality.
  • Sex Offender Treatment Program Non-Residential (SOTP-NR) has a history of a single sexual offense, and many may be first-time offenders serving a sentence for an Internet-based sexual crime.
  • SEXUALLY DANGEROUS PERSONS[i], Although the courts and The Designation and Sentence Computation Center (DSCC) identify inmates who may qualify to be certified as sexually dangerous, FCC Butner no longer houses these persons.
    • FCC Butner Psychology Doctoral Internship Program[iii]is facilitated through The Psychology Services Department at Federal Correctional Complex (FCC) in Butner, North Carolina.
    • In 2023, FCC Butner added two Forensic Postdoctoral Fellowships into the Federal Medical Center and Commitment and Treatment Programs.
  • Skills Program: A program for inmates with intellectual disabilities, neurological deficits, and social deficiencies (i.e., Autistic). Participation can be at the beginning of their incarceration but is available at any time and can be ongoing.
  • Social Skills Training Although designed for individuals suffering from schizophrenia, this resource is appropriate for any inmate with moderate social skills deficits.
  • STAGES Program, Residential **A residential Psychology Treatment Program for inmates diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.
  • STRONGER TOGETHER, EMERGING PROUD (S.T.E.P.)The program is designed to provide a safe, supportive place for participants to discuss shared experiences as a transgender person, build their resilience, and create a support system.
  • Threshold Program 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.
  • TRANSITION ACCEPTANCE The program is designed to provide a supportive space for participants to explore their gender transition journey.
  • Vocational Training This program combines three broad categories: 1) Apprenticeship Training, 2) Certification Course Training, and 3) Vocational Training.
  • WAYSAFE The goal of this program is to improve decision-making skills so participants can avoid at-risk behaviors regarding HIV and other viral illnesses spread by sex or blood contact.
  • WELLNESS INSIDE AND OUT The Wellness: The Inside and Out program will target individuals who bring physical and mental health problems to prison by offering skill-building lessons and specific goals.
  • Women’s Basic Financial Literacy Program This program targets the financial deficits incarcerated women face as they prepare to reenter society.
  • Woman’s Career Exploration Series Teaches strategies to help women succeed in the workplace and offers insights to assist them in overcoming employment barriers and moving toward long-term career success.
  • WOMEN’S CAREER SKILLS** is designed to assist participants in learning, developing, and practicing advanced skills for a fruitful career. These include Communication, Planning, Connecting with Others, and Personal Growth.
  • WOMEN’S LIFE SKILLS is designed to assist participants with life skill deficits in developing and practicing skills for success in their daily habits and routines.
  • WOMEN’S SEXUAL SAFETY The program includes three components: sexual health, sexual safety, and healthy sexual relationships.


IV) PA, Productive Activities

STAKEHOLDERS are responsible for ensuring that prisoners’ time in prison is uneventful and that their criminal tendencies are changed when released.

It is important to demonstrate that you have accepted responsibility for your crime and show remorse for the victim you have harmed, preferably before your presentence interview. However, it is better to do so later than never.

Once inside, stay out of trouble, take the assessment (Sparc-13), and then show up at each of the First Step Act Classes your case managers recommended without rolling your eyes. Why do I say this? See my video on how to implement the First Step Act successfully.

Your Case Manager recommends taking a First Step Act Class, like on Balancing your Checkbook (yes, really, and say thank you!!). Next, with all your free time, Education, Personal Development, and doing your job are all important. Staff doesn’t care, but they will know if you don’t do your job and if you are pursuing a possible career interest in History, Marketing, Science, or Biographies (anything), which can include painting, woodworking, or reading Non-Fiction books – great!

Can you prove that you’ve taken the FSA classes (if challenged)? Or have read these books? Suppose after six months, at your meeting with your Case manager, they let you know that you missed several classes – what is your response? If you don’t keep a paper trail, as in writing down everything you do as proof for them and a future reference resource, you could have a serious problem. This case shows that the defendant thought he had 365 days worth of credits, and he went to court. As you can read, among his other issues, the BOP stated he had only 75 days.

I always needed to keep notes on content I felt I could use later (when taking exams). With all this documentation going into your Release Plan, you will continually watch it grow, which may contribute to an earlier release. Plus, as you write all of this into your release plan and keep the originals for yourself, your case manager will eventually notice. Why? Because no one else may be doing this.

Colette Peters, the new Bureau of Prisons directorhas created much hope for change among staff, inmates, and Congress alike.

Attempting to make actual cultural changes and improvements to the conditions of care and custody in a behemoth industry (the BOP), at best, will not happen overnight. Still, Director Peters presents a pathway for optimism. Only time will tell.


1st) President Biden announced the 2nd Chance Pell Grant Program for Getting a College Education, which will be available starting 7/2023 and now in the BOP. To get the full benefits from the program, please keep updated with the participating colleges and universities as they continue to enroll.

2nd) YALE PRISON EDUCATION INITIATIVE. Zelda Roland, Founding Director, YPEI. After working with students enrolled in Wesleyan’s Center for Prison Education at Cheshire Correctional Institution – Meet The Team.​ She coordinates with the Connecticut Department of Corrections and other national and statewide prison education programs and criminal justice organizations. “Prison Education Initiative brings liberal arts to incarcerated students.”

V) The New Reality of the FSA

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

Still, the BOP will eventually retroactively provide the time-off relief many seek. Unfortunately, life in prison, possibly like the military, requires 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

Call 240.888.7778 for a personal one-on-one call
to discuss your current issue or that of a loved one. -Marc Blatstein


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

Parts of the First Step Act (as of 10/2023) may not yet be 100% up and running uniformly across all BOP (and contracted) facilities since its 2018 creation.