Part of our company’s mission is to provide income opportunities for formerly incarcerated people. That usually works out, but sometimes it does not.
Last month, we removed a person from our company because he misrepresented things to people who trusted in our team. Rather than empowering people, he led others to believe he could change the past.
Our company doesn’t stand for nonsense, as every document in our company and the website shows.
Since I got out of prison in 2013, we’ve built a business around lessons I learned from serving 26 years in prison. We strive to show the strategies that helped me get results, hoping that others can use those same strategies.
All our work pledges that we will never lie to anyone and that we will never suggest that anyone does anything that I did not personally do.
This letter shows the strategies I would have used if I did not get the result I wanted from the rollout of the auto-calculation system.
First, I would have used diplomacy. If that didn’t work, I would take methodical steps.
For the past week, I’ve been doing my best to get clarity on why the BOP has not updated sentence computation sheets for all people in federal prison.
Many people in federal prisons, halfway houses, and in-home confinement feel frustrated with the Bureau of Prisons because it appears the system did not appropriately calculate their Earned Time Credits. Although the system should have granted their immediate release or advanced their release date, those people continue to serve federal prison terms even though they earned freedom, according to their compliance with the First Step Act.
People should be free, but they’re still in prison.
If you’re experiencing problems, it’s crucial to self-advocate using the appropriate process. People should know their options.
What Options Exist:
To ensure that no one accuses me of “practicing law without a license,” I want to be clear that I’m not giving legal advice to anyone. I don’t have a law degree and have never applied to “practice law.”
I am a person who served 26 years in federal prison. During that time, I learned to self-advocate. I predicate all my work at Prison Professors on helping others understand lessons I learned about the importance of self-self-advocacy.
When striving to overcome systemic errors, many people have the initial instinct to complain. That rarely works. A person must know what to do. They cannot simply write to a judge seeking relief or hope someone else will resolve the problem.
My company retains subject-matter experts who retired from the Bureau of Prisons leadership. Those people cannot solve anyone’s problem, but they understand the levers a person can pull in pursuit of relief. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.
From every resource I can find, I try to get answers from insiders about what’s going on and how long the BOP will require to fix the problem. Although every person says the BOP is aware of the problem and trying to fix the auto-calculation system, I am still trying to get clear answers on how long it will take.
To succeed in prison, a person must learn to self-advocate. Retaining legal assistance to advocate may create an adversarial relationship with the BOP that does not actually lead to resolving the problem. Congress and the Courts have given the BOP a lot of discretion.
Further, both legislative actions and judicial decisions make it difficult for people to seek relief by going through the administrative remedy process first. If people don’t exhaust the appropriate process, Courts may dismiss legitimate claims.
The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) presents many challenges for people seeking relief from a US District Court Judge. The PLRA requires people in federal prison to show that they tried to resolve the complaint through the Administrative Remedy procedure. That cumbersome process begins as follows:
Write a description of the complaint to a staff member. Be detailed but succinct, outline the facts of the complaint. If a person believes the BOP isn’t adhering to a policy or law, the individual must write the grievance on a copout form.
For example: (Initial notification)
- I file this grievance on (insert date) because my release date does not reflect my Earned Time Credits. I meet all the criteria of the First Step Act, and I have participated in (xx) Productive Activities over the past (xx) months. I request that the BOP update my sentence computation sheet to show the Earned Time Credits.
Give staff members 24 hours to respond. If they do not respond within 24 hours, or if they provide a computation sheet that does not accurately reflect the Earned Time Credits, the PLRA requires people to continue. They must build a record that shows they worked through the process to exhaust all available administrative appeals. That means the next step would be to file a BP-9.
The person must request a BP-9 from the staff counselor, and the counselor will log the entry into a book. That entry becomes a part of the record. If the counselor is unavailable, then the person should record that the counselor is unavailable and write a letter, requesting that the warden treat the letter as a BP-9—Request for Administrative Remedy.
For example: (BP-9)
I file this grievance requesting application of the Earned Time Credits that the BOP should apply to my sentence computation. I attach the initial request I made to staff on (insert date), when I requested an updated sentence computation sheet reflecting my Earned Time Credits. I did not receive an updated sentence computation that reflects the Earned Time Credits I have earned, in accordance with the First Step Act and BOP policy Number 5410.01. Please provide an updated computation sheet describing by why my sentence computation sheet does not reflect the time credits I earned in accordance with the First Step Act and BOP policy Number 5410.01.
(Include a copy of the initial copout)
Step 3: (BP-10)
The administrative remedy process provides staff members with 20 days to respond. If the staff members do not respond within 20 days, or do not provide a satisfactory response, the PLRA requires people in prison to file an appeal.
People must request the BP-10 form from the counselor. If the counselor is unavailable, then the person should record that the counselor is unavailable and write a letter requesting that the Regional Director treat the letter as a BP-10—Regional Administrative Remedy Appeal.
For example: (BP-10)
I appeal the warden’s response to my request for administrative remedy. On (insert date) I filed a notice requesting an accurate sentence computation sheet that shows the Earned Time Credits I earned in accordance with the First Step Act and BOP policy Number 5410.01. I did not receive a favorable response and I appealed. The warden did not grant the relief requested. To comply with the Prison Litigation Reform Act, I appeal the BOP’s denial to apply Earned Time Credits to my sentence computation and request administrative remedy.
Step 4: (BP-11)
The administrative remedy process provides 30 days for staff members at the regional office to respond. If the staff members do not respond within 30 days, or do not provide a satisfactory response, the PLRA requires people in prison to file an appeal to the Central Office.
People must request the BP-11 form from the counselor. If the counselor is unavailable, then the person should record that the counselor is unavailable and write on a letter requesting that the Central Office treat the letter as a BP-11—Central Office Administrative Remedy Appeal.
For example: (BP-11)
I appeal the Regional Director’s response to my request for administrative remedy. On (insert date) I filed a notice requesting an accurate sentence computation sheet that shows the Earned Time Credits I earned in accordance with the First Step Act and BOP policy Number 5410.01. I did not receive a favorable response, and I appealed to the warden on (insert date). The warden did not grant the relief requested. To comply with the Prison Litigation Reform Act, on (insert date) I appealed to the Regional Director for administrative relief. The BOP continues to deny the application of my Earned Time Credits to my sentence computation, and I request administrative remedy.
Step 5: Motion pursuant to 2241
If the Central Office does not grant relief within 30 days, people can show that they have complied with the PLRA and exhausted their requests for administrative remedy. They should have copies of all previous correspondence regarding the pursuit of administrative remedy. Finally, they should get a copy of the official 2241 form, available to download on the button at the top of this web page, or from a federal court.
The pursuit of relief under Title 28 USC § 2241 is not as complicated as it sounds. Although I am not a lawyer, while going through 26 years in federal prison, I learned that a person could simply write in a letter format that is appropriately titled so the District Court understands the nature of the motion.
I never ask anyone to do anything that I didn’t do while I served my lengthy sentence. Although the BOP released me in 2013, if I were still in prison and the BOP were not giving me the credits I deserved, I would first exhaust the administrative remedy process, as described above.
Then I would file a Pro Se Motion Under Title 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Some people may not know how to do that, but it’s not too complicated. Since only a licensed attorney, or a person who is self-advocating can file such a motion, I thought it might be helpful to show how I would have filed.
For example, at the top of the letter, on the left side of the page, insert something as follows:
Michael Santos (Petitioner)
Beneath the heading insert the following heading, in bold or in all caps:
- Pro Se Motion Under Title 28 U.S.C. § 2241 For Application of First Step Act (FSA) Earned Time Credits Toward Sentence Computation.
Then write as a standard letter to the judge:
Dear Judge ….:
I am not an attorney, and I am filing this pro-se motion, moving this Honorable Court to order the Bureau of Prisons to apply First Step Act (FSA) Earned Time Credit to my federal prison sentence.
On (insert date), the President of the United States signed into law the “First Step Act” (FSA) 18 U.S.C. § 3632. The FSA grants eligible inmates the ability to earn time credits (ETC) for successfully participating in and completing approved Evidence-Based Recidivism Reduction (EBRR) programs or Productive Activities (PAs).
My conviction qualifies me to earn the FSA credits.
Since entering federal prison on (insert date) to serve a sentence of (insert number of months), the record shows that I have avoided disciplinary infractions and participated in Evidence-Based Recidivism Reduction (EBRR) programs or Productive Activities (PAs) as directed by staff members.
On several occasions I requested BOP staff members to apply the credits ETC toward my sentence computation. Despite numerous requests, the BOP has not updated my computation sheet to reflect the ETC I earned, in accordance with the First Step Act and BOP policy Number 5410.01.
Pursuant to Title 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a), I have complied with the Prison Litigation Reform Act, requiring me to exhaust administrative remedies to resolve this grievance.
Petitioner contends that the BOP failed to adhere to the FSA in its imposition of his sentence in two distinct areas:
- The BOP failed to apply 15 days of ETC for every 30 days of confinement, and
- The BOP failed to correctly calculate the FSA and Productive Activity or EBRR credits toward the remainder of his sentence.
Petitioner contends that not applying the correctly calculated FSA Earned Time Credits violates the Congressional intent under Title 18 U.S.C. § 3632 and inflicts irreputable harm, by sanctioning him to a longer prison term than allowed under Title 18 U.S.C. § 3553 and § 3632.
Petitioner contends that he made a good faith effort in attempting to resolve these concerns prior to filing in the District Court. The movant submitted the following administrative remedy forms:
- Initial request on (insert date)
- BP-9 Administrative remedy form (insert date)
- BP-10 Regional Appeal for Administrative remedy form (insert date)
- BP-11 Central Office Appeal for Administrative remedy form (insert date)
Section (4) Time Credits.—C Application of Time Credits Toward Pre-Release Custody.—holds that:
Time credits earned…by prisoners who successfully participate in recidivism reduction programs or productive activities and who have been determined to be at minimum risk or low risk for recidivating pursuant to their last two reassessments shall be applied toward time in pre-release custody. The Director of the Bureau of Prisons shall transfer prisoners described in this subsection into prerelease custody (also known as Supervised Release).
For the foregoing reasons, Petitioner moves this Honorable Court to GRANT immediate Habeas Corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2241, forcing the Bureau of Prisons to apply all Earned Time Credit to the Sentence Computation and grant immediate release.
I, Michael Santos, under penalty of perjury, hereby affirm that all statements given hereof are truthful to the best of my knowledge. I have mailed a certified copy of this motion to the Assistant United States Attorney’s Office for the (insert district), and I also sent a copy to the Clerk of the Court.
Petition requests the Clerk of the Court to return a stamped copy to the petitioner showing this motion has been filed with this Honorable Court and showing the appropriate case number for this pro se motiong filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241.
Note: To complete this pro se motion, I would have taken the additional steps:
- Included copies of all my requests for administrative remedy.
- Send a copy to the Assistant United States Attorney for the district.
- Send a copy to the Clerk of the Court for district of confinement (not the district that imposed the sentence).