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Federal Prison Residential Drug Abuse Program — Analysis

The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has implemented significant policy changes concerning its drug treatment programs and eligibility for sentence reduction, and placement for completion of its Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP). BOP Program Statement (P.S.) 5331-02. The Bureau’s drug treatment programs are now outlined in greater depth in the Bureau’s new Program Statement 5330.11, Psychology Treatment Programs. Besides fleshing out and expanding the scope of the drug treatment programs, the policy imposes some significant revisions.

Such changes include, but are not limited to, the following:

The Drug Education Course

The Drug Education Course is to be provided at all Bureau of Prisons institutions. While open to all inmates who may have a substance abuse history and voluntarily request it, certain inmates who are returned to Bureau of Prisons custody as violators of supervised release and who meet specified criteria related to substance abuse are now required to take this course. This course is to be provided at the beginning of an offender’s sentence, and is 12-15 hours in duration. Refusal, withdrawal or expulsion from this program by those for whom it is required will result in being limited to only the lowest federal prison wages, and ineligibility for a federal prison industries work assignment.

The Non-Residential Drug Abuse Program (NRDAP)

The Non-Residential Drug Abuse Program (NRDAP) is also to be available at all Bureau of Prisons institutions. This program is designed for inmates who are awaiting RDAP; inmates who do not meet RDAP qualifications but wish to benefit from drug abuse treatment; those referred by Bureau of Prisons psychology staff; offenders with judicial recommendations for drug treatment but either decline or are not qualified for RDAP; inmates who have detoxified upon entering the Bureau of Prisons; or inmates who are found guilty of an incident report for alcohol or drug use. NRDAP is 12 to 24 weeks in duration. Successful completion of the NRDAP is rewarded by an award of $30, in addition to an incentive of possible maximum pre-release time in a residential re-entry center (RRC), more commonly known as a halfway house.

Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP)

The qualifications for this in-demand program are more explicit in the new policy, including what documentation the Bureau needs to consider an offender for RDAP and, if such documentation is initially lacking from an offender’s file, what the offender can do to document his or her substance abuse history. Specifically, an offender can seek documentation verifying a substance abuse problem from such sources as a previous treatment provider and/or former parole or probation officer, and the offender can have Bureau of Prisons medical staff verify physical evidence of addiction such as track marks or detoxification after entering the Bureau of Prisons. Ultimately, in evaluating eligibility for RDAP, there must be a clinical determination by the Bureau of Prisons of a substance abuse diagnosis in accordance with the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. This of course means that a substance abuse or dependency disorder may not necessarily be diagnosed by a Bureau of Prisons practitioner even if there is documentation in the inmate’s file, i.e., Pre-sentence Report of a substance abuse problem and/or history. The clinical interview for otherwise RDAP-eligible inmates is to be conducted “ordinarily no less than 24 months from release.” Such a time frame is a significant factor, because with the high demand for RDAP resulting in full classes and new classes usually starting only every two to three months, even with a court recommendation for RDAP, there is a possibility (if not likelihood) that an offender sentenced to 24 months or less may not be sent to an institution that provides RDAP.