Biden administration criticized over report that it is not extending home confinement for prisoners
Criminal justice advocates are condemning the Biden administration for not extending a home confinement program for prisoners that was started during the coronavirus pandemic.
The New York Times reported on Monday, citing officials, that the administration’s legal team decided that thousands of federal convicts will be returned to prison a month after the state of emergency for the pandemic ends.
The administration had been under pressure for months to rescind a Trump-era policy set to kill the program when the pandemic ends. The home confinement program was launched as part of the CARES Act in March 2020 and directed the federal Bureau of Prisons to prioritize home confinement for certain inmates to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
“If it happens, we can’t mince words: it will mean that Mr. Biden will be ordering one of the largest reincarceration events in American history, with no safety reason to back up his action,” Holly Harris, the president and executive director of Justice Action Network, said in response to the Times report.
“We took President Biden at his word that he wanted to reduce mass incarceration, but this choice, to send thousands back to prison, would be doubling down on the worst parts of his legacy,” Harris added. “It’s time for President Biden to keep his promise, and keep these people home.”
In the final days of the Trump administration, the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel issued a memo stating that under federal law, inmates must report back to prison when the national emergency is over unless they are nearing the end of their sentence.
Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland could have rescinded that policy. The White House did not confirm The New York Times report to The Hill.
“We will continue to advocate for blanket clemency for these people who are living on home confinement and have already demonstrated that they pose no public safety threat. No public interest is served in having this group of individuals reincarcerated,” Lauren-Brooke Eisen, director in the Brennan Center’s Justice Program, told The Hill.
The Justice Action Network and the Brennan Center both noted that Biden campaigned heavily on criminal justice reform last year.
“On the campaign trail, President Biden vowed to take bold action to reduce our prison population, create a more just society, and make our communities safe. He said he believed in offering second chances,” Eisen said.
“Commuting the sentences of the approximately 4,000 people who have proven that they are no threat to public safety is a bold and humane step that the administration can take to reduce our reliance on incarceration and start to chip away at our failed system of mass incarceration in the U.S.,” she added.
There are about 4,500 people who have been in home confinement during the pandemic.
Lawmakers have also been involved in advocating for the Biden administration to announce an extension of the home confinement program. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) led a letter of 28 House Democrats in April calling for the policy to be rescinded.
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