Sunday, August 24, 2014

Writing and Reading

This post is a book recommendation. I am going to tell you about the book before I reveal the title; otherwise some of you would stop reading at this point. But you should read on. This is a very good book, and important to what we do. 

Lawyers write. We write for an audience. We want that audience to understand what we write. The easier it is to read, the more likely the audience will understand. Writing well is not only about substance, but about presentation.

Presentation is more than just font or formatting. To be an effective writer, we must pay attention to typography. Typography is "for the benefit of the reader, not the writer." 
Typography can optimize [our writing]. All writing necessarily involves typography. And good writing is part of good lawyering. So good typography is too. If you ignore typography, you are ignoring an opportunity to improve both your writing and your advocacy.
That quote is from Typography for Lawyers: Essential Tools for Polished & Persuasive Documents, by Matthew Butterick. Butterick is an attorney and has a degree in visual arts from Harvard. He also has this website.

This book is easy to read (because the typography is so good, no doubt). Butterick explains why there is only one space between sentences instead of two. And do not underline in a printed document, "[e]ver. It's ugly and makes the text harder to read." Sample documents are included. 

If you aren't sold on it yet, read the forward by Bryan Garner.   

Sunday, August 10, 2014


[re-cap of Kirk's RDAP blog, January 2014]

"Am I eligible for RDAP?" is a question often asked by our clients, and there is a lot of misinformation out there. All inmates at every institution have drug abuse counseling available, either as an educational or non-residential program. But those don't earn any time off. BOP offers a residential drug treatment program that, if successfully completed, can reduce the sentence by up to one year.

Here is a quick primer:

Make sure that any substance abuse problem is documented in the PSR  (this is usually why we let our clients talk about it in the PSR interview). A drug evaluation that confirms a substance abuse disorder is helpful, and can be included in the PSR or submitted directly to BOP.

Ask the sentencing court to make a recommendation to BOP for RDAP.

The program lasts for a minimum of 500 hours over 12 to 15 months.

Remaining sentence length determines time off -- 30 months or less may earn up to six months off; 31 to 36 months, nine months; and 37 or more, a maximum of 12 months.

Those ineligible include,

  • ICE detainees;
  • those with a prior felony or misdemeanor conviction for homicide, forcible rape, robbery, agg assault, arson, kidnapping, or sex offenses involving minors;
  • a current offense that has an element of actual, attempted, or threatened physical force against a person or property of another;
  • a current offense that involved carrying or use of a firearm or explosive [note: this includes the two-level gun enhancement for drug offenses];
  • conspiracy involving the prior two factors;
  • a current offense that presents a serious risk of physical force against a person or property;
  • a current offense involving sexual abuse of minors; or
  • anyone who previously received early release.

Participants are about 15% less likely to recidivate than non-participants.

Co-occurring disorder programs, also known as dual disorder treatment, treats co-existing substance abuse disorders and either mental health disorders or medical problems. Only two facilities offer this specialized treatment,  FMC at Carswell, Texas (women) and FMC at Lexington, Kentucky (men). The same early release eligibility is available.

The Challenge Program is for high risk/security clients who have substance abuse and major mental health disorders. No early release, but successful participants may lower their security points enough to transfer to medium security and apply for the RDAP program (and then maybe earn early release).

The BOP Program Statement for Early Release Procedures is here.

A list of facilities that offer RDAP is here.

More information is available at BOP's 2012 Report to the Judiciary Committee on substance abuse programs and the February 2012 GAO Report reviewing BOP programs that may allow a  sentence reduction (it is a rather short report).