The Federal Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP)

The Federal Bureau of Prisons in the United States has different in-house programs for inmates serving prison sentences. It offers a rehabilitation program for inmates who have a record of substance abuse before their arrest. The federal RDAP is a 500-hour, six-month intensive program offered to federal prisoners who qualify and enroll. This is the Federal Bureau of Prison’s most intensive programs

Eligibility and Exclusion

To be eligible for the federal RDAP program, an inmate has to meet the following criteria:

  • To be serving a prison sentence at a federal facility
  • To have a record of drug or substance abuse at least 12 months before being arrested for the sentence being carried out currently

There are exclusions that also lock out some inmates. These exceptions apply to inmates:

  • Who have committed violent offenses
  • With convictions for child sexual abuse, forcible rape, aggravated assault, homicide or robbery

Program Structure

Usually, inmates have to sign up for the program in order to participate. Since many prisoners’ want to participate, there is a waiting list on a first-come first-served basis. Prisoners therefore end up taking the program when they are about 24 months away from release. The period could be less. Some even take up the program with less than 12 months left on their sentence.

Once a prisoner takes up the program, they are required to complete 500 hours in six months of the program. After that, prisoners are eligible to up to 12 months relief off of their prison sentence. Prisoners end up getting different periods off of their sentence. This is determined by the time that a prisoner starts the program. If, for example, the inmate starts the program 13 months to his or her release, the program will take up 6 months of that time. After that, they might get the remaining 7 months off of their sentence.


This program has shown positive signs in inmates that have undertaken it. Some of the ways in which the program has been effective include:

  • It leads to a reduction in recidivism; that is, the prisoners are less likely to repeat the same crime that landed them in prison in the first place
  • Reduction in relapses into drug and substance abuse
  • Reduces the propensity to commit crime
  • Leads to improved mental and health conditions
  • Increases the prisoner’s awareness of their stake in society
  • Increases the prisoner’s level of education and their chances of employment upon release
  • Get a reduced sentence

Any prisoner who goes through the RDAP program emerges a better person in general.

The benefits of the federal RDAP program go beyond a reduced prison sentence. They help in reintegrating the prisoner back into society. It also improves the chances that the prisoner will get a job once they leave the prison. It also shapes the prisoner’s cognitive behavior. They learn how to identify their thoughts and the process that leads from when they have negative thought, how they react to them and how this leads to destructive behaviors.

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