Authorized by statute, the Residential Drug Abuse Program – commonly referred to as RDAP – is a voluntary five hundred hour, nine to twelve month substance abuse program available to inmates in the federal prison system. This program is attractive to many inmates because in addition to providing treatment for substance abuse, the successful completion of the program provides for up to twelve months off an inmate’s federal sentence.
In order to be eligible for this program, the inmate must neither be classified as a violent offender nor have any detainers (such as deportation or transfer to another jurisdiction on pending charges following the federal sentence). Additionally, the inmate must meet three criteria outlined by the Federal Bureau of Prisons:
1. The inmate must have a documented pattern of substance abuse in the twelve months prior to the arrest for which he or she is serving his or her current sentence; AND
2. The inmate must be able to complete all three phases of RDAP, including community transition drug abuse treatment; AND
3. The inmate must be diagnosed by the Drug Abuse Program Psychologist as having a drug use disorder as defined by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM).
Most eligible inmates begin the RDAP program with twenty-four months left on their sentence. RDAP has three components: unit-based component, follow-up services, and transitional drug abuse treatment.
In the unit-based component, participants generally live in a special section of the prison and split the day between drug abuse program activities and prison work or educational programs. This component has a minimum requirement of five hundred hours and generally lasts from nine to twelve months at the end of which the inmate receives a certificate of completion.
Follow-up services is the component of RDAP following the unit-based component and is the first part of the after-care requirement of RDAP. In this component, inmates are reintroduced into the general population and must participate in follow-up services offered by the prison, unless the inmate is scheduled to go directly to a halfway house following completion of the unit-based component.
Transitional drug abuse treatment is the third and final component of RDAP. This lasts up to six months and generally occurs in a halfway house of on home confinement, depending on where the inmate is assigned.
Not every federal prison has a RDAP program. The list of federal prisons that do have the program can be found here.
The recommendation for RDAP often comes from the presiding judge at sentencing after the presentence report (PSR) has been filed with the Court and the substance abuse issue has been highlighted in the sentencing memorandum by the attorney representing the accused. While a federal inmate can apply for the program while in prison, the waitlist is often as large as 7,000 people and it is undeniable that recommendation from the Court holds greater weight than an application by an inmate. For this reason, it is imperative that the defendant have a qualified and experienced attorney to bring his or her eligibility for RDAP to the Court’s attention