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Biden’s Bureau of Prisons Is Botching Trump’s First Step Act–Costing Taxpayers Billions

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Federal Correctional Institution, Miami – I am in prison because I chose the defense of our constitutional separation of powers and George Washington’s doctrine of executive privilege over my own personal freedom.

Behind my prison walls, I have uncovered one of the great hidden scandals of the Biden administration. This is the refusal of Biden’s Bureau of Prisons to implement President Donald Trump’s First Step Act (FSA), signed by the president in 2018 while I was in the White House. This delay is costing American taxpayers billions, increases the rate of recidivism and crime and cruelly delays returning inmates to their families and jobs.

President Trump designed the First Step Act to address an epidemic of overly harsh sentences that was spawned in the 1990s by then-Sen. Joe “Mandatory Minimum” Biden. Its basic premise is that it is possible to be “tough on crime” while having a “smart on crime” strategy to not permanently destroy lives.

To address this excessive sentencing issue, the First Step Act features earned time credits (FTCs) that can be earned through good behavior, productive activity, and participation in inmate programming to reduce recidivism. These FTCs are earned at the rate of 10 days per month in the first six months and 15 days a month thereafter for minimum and low-risk inmates.

These FTCs are first applied for up to one year of sentence reduction–that is, earlier release. Additionally, FTCs then accelerate an inmate’s transfer from prison into “pre-release” custody–to a halfway house and/or electronically monitored home confinement, both of which cost taxpayers substantially less than imprisonment.

Here’s the Bureau of Prison’s problem: Instead of projecting inmate FTCs as its own 2022 Program Statement requires, the BOP continues to rely on an antiquated “earn as you go” algorithm that vastly undercounts inmate FTCs. As a result, virtually every one of the more than 60,000 First Step Act eligible inmates will suffer from pre-release and release delays that range from three months to twelve months or more, depending on the length of the sentence.

These delays involve real people with real families enduring real suffering. For example, Dr. Arman Abovyan should have entered a halfway house four months ago; yet “Doc” will likely be in prison for six to twelve months more. That’s not just tens of thousands of dollars down the taxpayer drain paying for Doc’s “room and board.” Doc won’t be earning six figures and paying tens of thousands of dollars in income taxes either.

And how about the cruel and unusual punishment being meted out to the 80-year-old, wheel-chair-bound Delmer Gowing. This distinguished Vietnam War veteran, who bunks one bed down from me, should have been released 14 months ago and in a halfway house two years ago!

Conspicuous in its absence is any effort of either the “Backwards on Purpose” BOP or Department of Justice (DOJ) to estimate the costs of such delays. To the contrary. In the latest First Step Act Annual Report (April 2023), the DOJ noted: “As was the case in the last report, it is too soon to assess cost savings.”

With a hand calculator in prison, I have informally estimated that the BOP’s failure to implement FTCs costs the taxpayer anywhere between $1.5 billion and $3 billion for the more than 60,000 FSA-eligible inmates. Add to this as an indirect cost another one-half to one billion dollars in foregone tax revenues from keeping inmates in prison past their pre-release and release dates rather than returning them to the work force where they could otherwise have tax-paying jobs.

Finally, there is at least another one half to one billion dollars in tax expenditures providing Food Stamps, housing subsidies, and other forms of welfare to struggling wives and children of inmates deprived of the timely return of spouses who could otherwise help support them.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan invited BOP Director Colette Peters to testify before Congress on these and other matters, but she has refused. It is time, however, to put a subpoena in Peters’ hands. It is also time for the House to immediately pass a resolution demanding President Joe Biden’s BOP faithfully and fully implement President Donald Trump’s First Step Act.

If my imprisonment winds up saving American taxpayers billions of dollars, reducing the rate of recidivism, and making inmates’ families whole again, my prison journey may turn out to have been worth it–if not for me and my family, at least for this nation.

Peter Navarro served for four years in the Trump White House as manufacturing czar.  His new book, The New MAGA Deal, is the unofficial Deplorables Guide to the Trump 2024 campaign platform. (www.newmagadeal.com)

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.

 

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