Former Living Hope Church pastor John Bishop is scheduled to be released from federal custody today, two years before his prison term was set to end.
Bishop, 58, built Living Hope Church into a large enterprise, but he was ousted in the fall of 2015 after allegations of moral indiscretions, including alcohol abuse and infidelity, came to light.
He was arrested in December 2017 for attempting to smuggle nearly 300 pounds of marijuana into the United States from Mexico. He later pleaded guilty and was sentenced the day before Thanksgiving 2018 to serve five years in federal prison.
Although the Federal Bureau of Prisons would not specify why Bishop is being freed, the agency said it is classified as a Substance Abuse Treatment Release.
Most recently, Bishop was being managed by a residential reentry field office in Phoenix, according to federal inmate records. A spokesperson for the Bureau of Prisons previously said that Bishop had transferred June 2 from a satellite prison camp in Florence, Colo., to community confinement, meaning he was either on home confinement or at a residential reentry center or halfway house.
Fall From Grace
Bishop’s release comes about two years early.
Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Randilee Giamusso said there are many reasons why an inmate’s term of incarceration may be reduced, adding that “We can confirm that Mr. Bishop’s projected release date has been calculated in accordance with federal statutes and BOP policy.”
An inmate’s projected release date includes calculation of earned good conduct time, which allows for up to 54 days’ credit for every year a sentence was imposed.
Inmates may also receive credit for time served in custody prior to their sentence, and some may be released early via a court order, such as a compassionate release for old age and medical conditions, or clemency.
Additionally, inmates may be released up to 12 months early if they complete the Bureau of Prisons’ Residential Drug Abuse Program. Giamusso did not say whether Bishop had completed that program and said she could not speak to the specifics of his program participation.
Also, Bishop already had about three months’ credit for time served before going into Bureau of Prisons custody and may have qualified for nine months of good conduct time.
Bishop’s wife, Michelle, did not respond to an email about his release and plans for the future.
In August, the Hollywood entertainment site Deadline reported that film producer and distribution company New Regency had acquired the film rights to David Kushner’s Vanity Fair article, “The Church of Living Dangerously: How One of America’s Biggest Pastors Became a Drug Runner for a Mexican Cartel.” The deal also includes the life rights to John Bishop and his adult son, David. Oscar winner Christian Bale is set to star in the film.
Kushner told Bishop’s life story in 6,015 words, including Bishop’s, his wife’s and son’s account of their dealings with Mexican drug cartels.
Bishop gave a similar interview to The Columbian days before the newspaper published a six-part series on his fall from grace that came out several months before the Vanity Fair article.
The account Bishop gave to The Columbian, most of which he requested not be printed, largely diverged from the story he and his family told to Vanity Fair. Kushner’s article did not reference any of The Columbian’s reporting.