Published on: Friday, October 18, 2019

Yesterday, the United States House of Representative’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security held an oversight hearing on the Federal Bureau of Prisons and Implementation of the First Step Act.  Links to all of the witness testimony, including that of David Patton, Executive Director, Federal Defenders of New York, is available on the House’s webpage here.

Much of the hearing focused on the Justice Department’s efforts to develop, refine, and implement the Risk and Needs Assessment System (RNAS) required by the First Step Act.  To a lesser extent, the hearing also covered the Department’s other efforts to implement the First Step Act, such as good time recalculation, drug treatment, compassionate release, as well as problems at the MDC in Brooklyn and the MCC in Manhattan and other issues.

Readers may recall, on July 19, 2019, DOJ released a report on the RNAS (tiled The First Step Act of 2018: Risk and Needs Assessment System) announcing the new tool to be used by BOP is called the Prisoner Assessment Tool Targeting Estimated Risk and Needs (PATTERN).  The importance of PATTERN cannot be overestimated—it will be used to assess “the recidivism risk of each prisoner” and  determine “the type and amount of evidence-based recidivism reduction programming for each.”  In short, it will determine how much time people serve in federal prison through its impact on the ability of inmates to earn early release credits.  The written testimony of David Patton and Dr. Melissa Hamilton criticized PATTERN for its racial bias and lack of transparency, fairness, and scientific validity.      

The Training Division provides resources and information on the First Step Act here