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FIRST STEP Act revives transitional housing for people in federal prison.

In October 2017, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) discontinued contracts with 16 halfway houses that it said were “underutilized.”Memorandum from Hugh J. Hurwitz, Acting Assistant Director, Reentry Services Division, U.S. Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Prisons to Regional Directors Re: Residential Reentry Center Operations, October 10, 2017. Halfway houses can help to reduce the likelihood of reoffending during periods of supervised release by providing people with housing stability, as well as assistance with medical and mental health care as they search for jobs and establish personal connections.S.E. Costanza, Stephen M. Cox, and John C. Kilburn, “The Impact of Halfway Houses on Parole Success and Recidivism,” Journal of Sociological Research 6, no. 2 (2015), 39-55.

The 2017 cuts meant that fewer people under BOP jurisdiction would have access to these transitional living situations and would remain longer in prison.

Halfway houses, however, are an important feature of the federal FIRST STEP Act, signed into law on December 21.FIRST STEP Act, S.756, 115th Congress (2018) (actions overview). The bipartisan-supported law includes a provision that allows incarcerated people to earn credits that would affect how much of their sentence might be spent in a halfway house or under other community supervision.FIRST STEP Act, S.756, 115th Congress (2018), §§ 101-104. Also see German Lopez, “The Senate Just Passed Criminal Justice Reform,” Vox, December 19, 2018. Each person would be entitled to accumulate 54 days of “good time credits” per year by participating in educational, vocational, or other recidivism-reduction programming.For the good time credits provision generally, see FIRST STEP Act, S.756, 115th Congress (2018), §§ 101-102. For the 54 day sentence reduction, see ibid., § 102(b)(1)(A). For the $75 million appropriation, see ibid., § 104. The FIRST STEP Act applies only to the approximately 180,000 people in federal prison, not the nearly two million in state prisons and local jails.Number of people in federal prison retrieved from Federal Bureau of Prisons, “Statistics,” January 16, 2019. For state prison and local jail incarceration statistics, see Danielle Kaeble and Mary Cowhig, Correctional Populations in the United States, 2016 (Washington, DC: BJS, 2018), 11.