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The First Step Act has seen success since its passage in December 2018, but much more work remains to be be done at the federal level on criminal justice reform. Several bipartisan bills have been introduced to bring second chances to the formerly incarcerated, including the Fair Chance Act, S. 387 and H.R. 1076; the Clean Slate Act, H.R. 2348; and legislation to expand apprenticeships, H.R. 4369.
There is also legislation to make some technical corrections to the First Step Act. One of those bills is H.R. 4018. This particular bill fixes a technical issue related to the Elderly Home Detention Pilot Program that was created by the First Step Act. Elderly individuals inside the prison system require more healthcare services, which drives up the costs to the Federal Bureau of Prisons and thus also to taxpayers.
The Elderly Home Detention Pilot Program allows nonviolent prisoners who are 60 years of age or older and have served two-thirds or more of their sentences to be transferred into home confinement. This is a more cost-effective means of handling elderly prisoners, who will also, as a result, have access to better medical care.
Where H.R. 4018 comes in is to include good time credits into the calculation. The First Step Act restored congressional intent to “good time credits,” which allow prisoners who “display exemplary compliance with institutional disciplinary regulations” to “receive credit toward the service of [his or her] sentence” of up to 54 days per year of his or her sentence. Prior to the passage of the First Step Act, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) interpreted this to mean a maximum of 47 days per year. The Supreme Court upheld the BOP’s interpretation, based on the deference to federal agencies established in Chevron.
The Bureau of Prisons hasn’t included good time credit into the equation when it calculates the two-thirds eligibility requirement for Elderly Home Detention Pilot Program. H.R. 4018 would simply provide for good time credits to be factored into the determination for eligibility for the program. FreedomWorks recently signed onto a coalition letter in support of H.R. 4018 and hopes the House of Representatives considers and passes the bill.