Thousands of federal convicts released from house arrest during COVID will be sent BACK to prison when pandemic ’emergency’ is over, Biden administration says
- White House move underscores a Trump-era memo written in late January januari
- It states that detainees released under house arrest under the CARES Act must return to prison up to 30 days after the end of the pandemic emergency
- Officials reportedly said the decision is based on legal interpretation, not policy
- The decision applies to approximately 4,000 non-violent prisoners
- Democrats in Congress and groups including the ACLU have pressured Biden to use his presidential powers to roll back Trump’s DOJ policies
- A nationwide spike in COVID cases fueled by the Delta variant means the emergency declaration is likely to last for the rest of the year
The Biden administration is reportedly sticking to a Trump-era policy of returning thousands of federal convicts released from house arrest during COVID to prison a month after the pandemic is over.
A memo from the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel, sent a week before Biden took office, says inmates whose sentences extend beyond the official state of emergency declared before the pandemic should be put back behind bars.
“We understand that about 40 percent of those inmates would have been ineligible” [for home confinement] in the absence of the emergency service,” the order reads.
According to the BOP, more than 7,000 inmates are currently under house arrest, including those not sent home under pandemic rules.
Biden’s legal team’s decision backs a memo written by the Trump DOJ during the ex-president’s last days in office. It states that federal convicts must return to prison no more than 30 days after the official emergency declaration of the pandemic ends
The CARES Act allowed approximately 4,000 non-violent offenders to temporarily leave prison New York Times reports.
Recent increases in COVID cases and concerns about the Delta variant mean that the emergency period, declared in March 2020, is unlikely to end this year.
The CARES Act instructed the DOJ to allow lower-level countermeasures under house arrest to slow the spread of the virus. Then AG Barr sent the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) a memo stating strict admission standards.
As a government proponent of prison reform, Biden’s White House is under intense pressure to repeal the Trump-era directive (Photo: Clinton Correction Facility in New York)
Officials have reportedly insisted that the decision was made on the basis of the law, not policy.
The Biden team is reportedly hesitant to issue a general commutation about the potential political risk and concerns about interfering with DOJ policy on such a large scale.
But as a government advocating prison reform, Biden has come under intense pressure to revoke the Trump-era directive.
A letter signed by 20 advocacy groups, including the ACLU and NAACP, pleaded with Biden to commute thousands of prisoners’ sentences.
“This is your chance to give a second chance to thousands of people already safe from prison, reintegrating back into society, reconnecting with their loved ones, getting a job and going back to school,” he said. the letter sent Monday.
Officials familiar with the talks on the matter reportedly said the decision was a matter of law, not government policy.
More than two dozen House Democrats and one Republican urged Biden to “reverse the Trump administration’s cruel and misguided decision to force thousands of people currently under house arrest to return to federal prison.”
“Such a move would harm families, waste taxpayers’ money and undermine public safety.”
Democratic Senators Dick Durbin and Cory Booker also sent Attorney General Merrick Garland a letter in late April urging him to revoke the Trump DOJ policy.
Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa also supported the reversal in a hearing in April, citing statistics that less than 1% of criminals sent home under the CARES Act violated the terms of their house arrest. .
When asked for a statement, the White House did not name pandemic-specific regulations.
“President Biden is committed to reducing incarceration and helping people reintegrate back into society,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates told the New York Times. “As he has said, too many Americans are in prison, and too many are black and brown. His administration is focused on reforming our justice system to strengthen families, boost our economy and give people a chance for a better future.”