Prisonology spoke with Patricia Griffin, PhD, Bureau Of Prisons RDAP Coordinator - Retired, on the RDAP program and how to improve your chances of getting into it.
The Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP) is a 500-hour program over nine months for inmates incarcerated in select institutions. The program is intensive therapy addressing past alcohol and drug abuse issues for those enrolled. Completion of the program can result in up to a one year reduction off of an inmates prison term and six months of halfway house. It is the only program, if completed, in the BOP that offers a reduction of time off of a sentence.
You can qualify for up to 12 months off of your sentence by participating in RDAP but overcrowding and the duration of your sentence may result in less time being taken off of your prison term.
Even if a federal judge recommends you to the RDAP program, and if it is in your PSR, you still need to apply. Soon after you arrive at a federal institution, you need to contact the Drug Abuse Program Coordinator in the Psychology Department to apply for RDAP.
Once you have applied, your documentation will be reviewed by staff to see if you qualify for the RDAP. The Presentence Report (PSR) is especially relied up during the screening process.
If there is no documentation of substance abuse or dependence in the PSR in the year before your arrest, you will be denied admission in the RDAP.
If there is no documentation in your PSR about substance abuse, documentation from physicians and counselors prior to prison may be submitted. However the review process for this is stringent and, frequently, not successful.
It is up to the specialists at the prison as to whether or not to admit an inmate into the RDAP program.
Every inmate who applies for the RDAP is going to be interviewed by a Drug Treatment Specialist for screening into the program.
Once in the RDAP program, inmates are held to a higher level of accountability, so rules that may not have been enforced in other living Units will be strictly enforced during the program.
Stay focused and dedicated to the program. Staff does not appreciate RDAP participants that are just going through the motions. If you are engaged, the program will be easier for you.
Hang out with people in your cohort as much as possible. They know the rules and want to make it to the finish line as much as you do. Inmates who are not in the program may not share that same view.
There are a number of conditions that may exclude a person from participating in the program, but two primary ones are having a sentence of 24 months or less, or not being a U.S. Citizen.
L.S. (Inmate) Residential Drug & Alcohol Program (RDAP)
"This Isn't Fun.
So here I am a few days into this new camp for RDAP. Let's just say that - so far at least - it's not particularly fun.
I arrived a few days ago on a bus with a group of other new guys. The first few minutes were ok as we dragged our plastic bags to our new bunks. First impressions were even favorable: compared to the other camp, the barracks here are relatively light, clean, spacious and comfortable. But before long, as the old-timers filtered into the dorm, the fun began.
My first notice that this wasn't an ordinary prison camp came when I stepped away from my bunk for a moment to ask a neighbor a question. Before I could cross the aisle, several guys were in my face informing me that I had just broken an important rule. As I soon learned, you cannot leave your area before 4 p.m. unless all your items are in stowed away in your locker; no shirt or book or brush can be anywhere to be seen. Then I made my bed, only to be informed that it was completely wrong: the pillow can't touch the headboard and the blanket has to be folded down exactly 1 inch. Later, I walked to the bathroom to wash my face. Before the water touched my skin someone was informing me that I was using the wrong sink. In the evening, I stepped outside only to be yelled at for stopping on a painted yellow square. The worst crime? Stepping off the path onto the white gravel that's replaced the grass in this drought-prone area.
I'd heard stories about the place before I came in - about all the rules, about the particular culture. RDAP is a favorite topic of conversation at the 'ordinary camp': rumors abound about how they brainwash you, about the endless rules, about a punishment called a "pull-up" in which you stand up before the entire population and admit your transgression, however seemingly minor. But I wondered to myself how hard it could be. I consider myself a courteous person and tend (despite my crime) to follow rules. I also understood the basic concept: to create a self-contained, law-abiding community out of a disparate group of lawbreakers and addicts.
But the program, I quickly realized, took these ideas of accountability and community to an entirely unexpected level. Especially for a prison, where creatively circumventing the rules is an entire way of life.
The first problem for me was that very few of the rules were written down. We were apparently just expected to know them. The second was that I was not used to getting etiquette and behavior lessons from fellow inmates. So, I'm ashamed to say, I got a little defensive. Especially when someone criticized how I blew my nose, how I brushed my teeth and how I flushed the toilet. I started thanking my fellow participants for their comments through gritted teeth until, at 4 a.m. the next morning as I prepared quietly for work amidst a sea of snoring inmates, I was informed by a fellow early riser that I had not washed my hands properly after sneezing. I grunted and turned away without a 'thank you'. Later I was told that my behavior was not pro-social.
But I'm doing my best - the first few days are considered a "grace period" before the actual punishment begins. I'm using up, it seems, my allotment of free passes until the pull-ups start to fly. But it's not as bad as hazing week at the fraternity in college: no green underwear, beer bongs or screaming in my ears ... or my first week in prison at the other camp, which was nearly infinitely worse. In some ways it's even fun and instructive: a useful lesson in humility and how to follow the rules. I just wish there weren't so many of them."
J.L (Inmate) Residential Drug & Alcohol Program (RDAP)
"I would need a new notebook with 100 pages to answer this question. Inmates are constantly breaking rules every day. Remember, I am in RDAP and if we break the rules or get in trouble, we could jeopardize our Good Time [time off for good behavior and time off for participating the RDAP program]. The RDAP program is very strict in my Unit. So it is like two different societies and prisons here at [prison camp]; RDAP and non-RDAP. The prisoners not in RDAP steal from the kitchen, break all the common small rules like buying and selling food, shoes, clothes and radios from each other. They also eat and drink in places they should not then of course we have the much more serious rule violations. That includes using cell phones, smoking cigarettes, marijuana and alcohol use. We do not have a fence so inmates sneak off to the nearest road to get packages that are dropped off. It is risky but some do it. So there is plenty of contraband items around, I just stay as far away from it as I can.
The ones who usually bring in packages are the inmates who have been in prison for the longest period of time. If an inmate gets caught with contraband, or is caught leaving the compound to pick up a package, they get shipped to another higher security facility. I've seen that happen several times within my first year here. This is the worst thing in the world so I am just astonished that guys do this stuff. Honestly, it is just easier being in the RDAP program and obeying the rules and knowing that everyone around you is obeying them as well. We all just want to go home."