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DOJ finds Bureau of Prisons failed to apply earned time credits to 60,000 inmates

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(NEW YORK) — Sixty-thousand inmates potentially did not properly receive credits for time served under the First Step Act’s recidivism programs, the Department of Justice inspector general found.

“We are concerned that the delay in applying earned time credits may negatively affect inmates who have earned a reduction in their sentence or an earlier placement in the community,” Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz wrote in the report released Tuesday.

The inspector general also found that the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) failed to incentivize or reward inmates who completed First Step-related programs.

After the implementation of the sweeping First Step Act, a recidivism program was put into place with time-served credit for inmates who completed it.

The BOP told the inspector general the credits weren’t applied because they “must be negotiated with the national union because it would create changes to conditions of employment, including determinations and application of earned time credits for inmates, for Unit Team staff working in BOP institutions who are bargaining unit employees,” according to the report.

The DOJ report noted that a lack of in-person negotiations with BOP union members slowed the implementation of the act and inspector general recommendations. BOP union negotiations weren’t taking place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, despite BOP staff going into federal prisons across the country.

The Bureau of Prisons union has not responded to ABC News’ request for comment.

“BOP disagrees with OIG’s characterization of the agency’s delayed implementation of FSA requirements,” the Bureau of Prisons wrote in a written response attached to the report. “Although the COVID- 19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for the federal government, BOP has taken significant steps in implementing the FSA’s requirements, consistent with the FSA’s phased approach, and has complied with all mandatory statutory guidelines to-date.”

On Tuesday, Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin called for Attorney General Merrick Garland to dismiss BOP Director Michael Carvajal after The Associated Press released a report detailing an amalgamation of federal charges against BOP employees.

“Director Carvajal was handpicked by former Attorney General Bill Barr and has overseen a series of mounting crises, including failing to protect BOP staff and inmates from the COVID-19 pandemic, failing to address chronic understaffing, failing to implement the landmark First Step Act and more,” Durbin said. “It is past time for Attorney General Garland to replace Director Carvajal with a reform-minded director who is not a product of the BOP bureaucracy.”

The Bureau of Prisons has been under scrutiny for more than half a decade for a multitude of issues.

Following the suicide of Jeffery Epstein at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, there were calls to revamp BOP totally, and former Attorney General Barr brought in former Director Kathleen Hawk Sawyer to run the agency. After she left, Caravajal took over.

 

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