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 How to Get Out of Prison Early 

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Michael Santos

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In an effort to help people learn ways of how to get out of prison early, I would like to share what I have learned through my personal journey in the criminal justice system.

After a federal judge imposes a sentence, a few mechanisms exist for a person to work toward an earlier release date. One option would be to complete a substance abuse treatment program called Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP). A person must meet strict eligibility criteria to qualify. If a person documents the history of substance in the Presentence Investigation Report (PSR), qualifying becomes easier. Some people do not understand the importance of details in a PSR. Those who need to amend an existing PSR to qualify for RDAP may find value in our article on how to get out of prison early. People who do not know they could amend a PSR from inside prison may find value in How to Get Out of Prison Early.

My name is Anil Sahijwani. In 2017, I plead guilty in a Federal court and was sentenced by a judge to four years. If I would have taken the time to better understand my options before sentencing, then I would not have had to pursue a way to get out of prison early while I was incarcerated.

Here Was the Problem Prior to Sentencing

My defense attorney told me about “time credits” I would be receiving if I were to be sentenced to time in prison. He said I would have 54 days taken off of my sentence for each year served if I were to avoid any disciplinary infarctions. He summed it up by saying that I would serve approximately 85% of my prison sentence.

He also asked me if I had any issues with alcohol or drugs. I denied anything of the sort, even though I had a history of alcohol abuse. I intentionally withheld the truth out of fear that a substance abuse issue would make matters much worse for me at sentencing. Nothing further was said and we moved on, so I didn’t think anything more of it.

I did not perform my own due diligence in researching mitigation strategies, but instead chose to rely entirely on my defense attorney for total guidance. To secure the best possible outcome for my future requires me to actively prepare and participate in making changes to succeed.

What Happens When People Don’t Understand a Presentence Investigation Report (PSR)?

A Presentence Investigation Report (PSR) is written by probation officers to provide a summary of a person’s background, guideline recommendations, and his or her overall opinion. The procedure of the Presentence Investigation (PSI) begins after a defendant has plead guilty.

The PSR is a very important document that it is read by judges and prison administrators when making their assessments. It is a person’s opportunity to honest and open about his or her life in hopes to reach the best outcome possible. If anything is omitted from the PSR, then it is as if that piece of history never occurred.

Our team at Prison Professors has worked with thousands of people in their pre-trial phase helping them to prepare for their sentencing hearings. Based on their own personal journeys through the criminal justice system, our team members are able to share their knowledge on how to best prepare for the PSI and ultimately have a PSR that provides the best possible outcome. The link below provides an article to help understand the PSR:

I never shared my history of alcohol abuse with my Probation Officer despite multiple opportunities to do so. When he submitted the Presentence Investigation Report (PSR) to the judge, there was no reason to recommend me for any treatment programs in the Federal prison system at the time of my sentencing.

What is RDAP?

The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has developed an evidence-based substance abuse treatment program to help inmates with substance abuse disorders. This 500-hour intensive program consists of individual and group therapy, and has been in existence for more than 20 years. RDAP is based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which has been proven to improve an inmate’s physical and mental health while reducing drug relapse and recidivism.

RDAP is a voluntary, residential program that is typically nine months long run by Psychology Services and its staff members. There are multiple criteria that must be met to be considered for inclusion into RDAP:

  • Has enough time left on sentence to complete the Program (approximately 24 months)
  • Has a documented and verifiable substance abuse disorder within the 12-month period prior to the prisoner’s arrest for the current offense
  • Has basic literacy in the language the Program is being conducted in
  • Does not have a violence or weapons-related charge
  • Is not an immigration detainee

The link below offers an article to provide a basic understanding of RDAP:

The BOP offers an incentive for non-violent offenders to receive at minimum six months and at maximum up to one year off of their sentence for program completion. An inmate is considered to have graduated RDAP if all three of the following components are successfully completed:

  1. The residential, unit-based program
  2. Follow-up services provided from the time of completion of the residential program to the release of the inmate to the community
  3. Community Treatment Services (CTS), which is a 6-month community based program

An inmate’s failure to complete any portion of the three stages listed above is considered a failure of the entire program and any time taken off of his or her sentence can be revoked by the BOP. Once RDAP is successfully completed, a person will never be able to reapply in their lifetime should they find themselves facing another Federal prison term.

Meeting with Psychology Services in Prison

I wanted to be accepted into RDAP to address my substance abuse issue. I was already serving time in prison and needed to do the research to create a plan for success. I was willing to improve my life and I had an opportunity to put my plan into action. My research led me to discover that I met all the criteria to be considered eligible for participation in RDAP.

My next step was to admit to an authority figure that I had a substance abuse disorder. I placed a written request to meet with the Chief Psychologist in Psychology Services. I was completely open and honest during this meeting with her. She regretfully told me that because there was no evidence of abuse documented in my PSR then there was no possible option for her to consider me for RDAP.

Amending my Presentence Investigation Report

Over multiple phone calls with my defense attorney, we created a strategy to amend my PSR. It started with me writing a lengthy letter to the judge documenting my entire journey with substance abuse. The process of being so open and vulnerable in my letter about a disorder I tried so hard to keep hidden for so long was very painful, but I knew I had a real chance to have a successful outcome.

One of the most important criteria for acceptance into RDAP is the documentation of a clear presence of substance abuse 12 months prior to a person’s arrest. This had to be documented in my letter in great detail so there was no question about this period of time.   

My attorney drafted a motion to amend my PSR and included:

  • A summary of my substance abuse history based on our conversations
  • The criteria for eligibility into RDAP
  • An emphasis on the timeline requirement for inclusion
  • My personal letter to the judge

My RDAP Journey

It took a year and a half from the moment I first met with the Chief Psychologist in prison to the judge ruling in my favor and the Probation Officer amending my PSR. The change in my PSR did not automatically mean my acceptance into RDAP. It deemed me as eligible to meet with Psychology Services and opened the possibility of my participation in RDAP.

An interview by a member of psychology must be conducted to determine an inmate’s final eligibility into the program. In my case, the Drug Abuse Program Coordinator (DAPC) met with me and used his clinical assessment of my disorder in deciding that I was eligible to participate.

The program starts with a new group of inmates approximately every four months. After my acceptance into the program, I had to wait until the next group began and I moved into the residential unit of the prison solely dedicated to participants.

My journey through RDAP was very successful as I learned and applied behavioral therapy to my daily thoughts and actions. I achieved Senior Guide status within the program and helped to mentor participants who were in earlier stages of the program. Upon completing the residential unit-based program, I actively participated and complied with the follow-up services requirement until I was released to the Halfway House.

Getting out of Prison Early

Due to my initial sentence length being greater than 36 months, I received a sentence reduction of 12 months. Due to the third and final requirement of RDAP, the completion of 6 months of Community Treatment Services (CTS), I was eligible for an even earlier release. A minimum of 6 months in a Halfway House setting is necessary for an offender to be able to attend CTS. I was able to transition out of prison and into a Halfway House setting at least a year and a half earlier than anticipated.

To get the necessary help to make a lifestyle change and overcome a substance abuse disorder, a person needs to learn about the options available in the Federal system. To get out of prison early, a person needs to understand the importance of the PSR from the very beginning and learn everything possible about the system. A person needs to develop and follow a plan to get the best possible outcome from a criminal charge.

This is the lesson I learned while serving my time inside a Federal prison.

How is Your Plan to Get out of Prison Early?

If you would like to know if you have a good plan to get out of prison early, then schedule a free appointment with our teammate, Sam Mangel.

Prison Professors, an Earning Freedom company, works alongside (not in place of) civil and criminal defense counsel to help clients proactively navigate through investigations and prosecutions. Our team also helps clients prepare mitigation and compliance strategies.

If you have any questions or are uncertain about any of the issues discussed in this post, schedule a call with our risk mitigation team to receive additional guidance.

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