About the First Step Act of 2018

Title I §3631-3633 (inclusive) of Public Law 115-391 (December 21, 2018), commonly referred to as the First Step Act (FSA), assigns the Attorney General (AG) of the United States two principal responsibilities. In consultation with the Director of the Bureau of Prisons (BOP), the Director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, the Director of the Office of Probation and Pretrial Services, the Director of the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), and the Director of the National Institute of Corrections (NIC), the AG is directed to:

  • Develop, validate, release for public review (by late July 2019), and implement (through BOP by late January 2020) FSA’s “risk and needs assessment system” (RNAS) provisions; and
  • Identify “effective evidence-based recidivism-reduction programs” (EBRPs) and “productive activities” for BOP inmates; expand inmate access to such programs and activities (by late January 2020) as necessary to implement FSA Title I’s system of time-credit incentives for inmate participation; and further expand inmate access to such programs and activities such that (by late January 2022) EBRPs and productive activities are available “for all prisoners” in BOP custody

To assist the AG in the performance of these duties, FSA’s Title I §107 provides for the establishment of an Independent Review Committee (IRC) composed of not fewer than six individuals with “expertise in risk and needs assessment systems” (including at least two who have published peer-reviewed scholarship on the subject; two current or former corrections practitioners—one of them with prior work experience inside BOP—who have developed and administered risk and needs assessment tools; and one with particular expertise in evaluating the implementation of such tools). NIJ is to select a “nonpartisan and nonprofit organization with expertise in the study and development of risk and needs assessment tools” that will then select and appoint the IRC’s member experts and act as the Committee’s “host” until its statutory tenure ends “two years after the date” on which the RNAS is initially released.

FSA’S RISK AND NEEDS ASSESSMENT SYSTEM IN DETAIL
FSA’S EBRP AND PRODUCTIVE ACTIVITY PROVISIONS IN DETAIL
FSA’S RNAS IMPLEMENTATION PROVISIONS IN DETAIL