The United States Justice Department declared on Tuesday that federal detainees who were sent home as a result of the coronavirus outbreak will not be required to return to jail after the emergency has been removed.
The judgment is a significant turnaround for the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel, which had earlier issued an opinion stating that the Bureau of Prisons did not have the legal power to detain convicts at home once the pandemic emergency had passed.
It also represents a significant triumph for criminal justice advocacy groups, which have fought tooth and nail to have the Department of Justice and the White House take steps to ensure that law-abiding, low-level inmates are not compelled to return to jail.
“Tens of thousands of people who were sentenced to home confinement have reconnected with their families, found productive jobs, and complied with the law,” “In a statement, Attorney General Merrick Garland expressed his views.
Garland had spoken with a number of inmates who were being held in home confinement earlier in the day to learn about their experiences.
When the CARES Act was passed by Congress in 2020, it expanded the Justice Department’s jurisdiction to release low-level inmates into home confinement during a pandemic in order to ease overcrowding and minimize the spread of COVID-19, among other things.
According to a contentious opinion published in January this year by the department’s Office of Legal Counsel, if the state of emergency is lifted, federal prison officials “shall recall offenders under home confinement to correctional institutions” if they do not otherwise qualify to remain at home.
More than a dozen advocacy organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the Justice Action Network, and FAMM (which opposes mandatory minimum sentences), are calling for an overturning of the Justice Department’s ruling in this case.
The White House has also been pressed by these groups to exercise its clemency powers to commute the sentences of those who have been sent home.
From March 2020 until December 6, this year, over 35,000 convicts were released from prison under the authority of the Bureau of Prisons’ varied legal rights.
As of Dec. 6, the Justice Department reported that 4,879 convicts were in prolonged home confinement under the authority of the CARES Act and that over 2,800 people would have been sent to prison if the prior legal opinion had remained in effect after the emergency was resolved.
“This is wonderful news for thousands of people and their families to receive just in time for the holidays,” FAMM President Kevin Ring stated in a press release.
“There is absolutely no way that the people on CARES Act home confinement should have been sent back to prison, and we are extremely thankful to the Biden administration for correcting this oversight.” -“
Moreover, Garland stated on Tuesday that he intends to urge the Bureau of Prisons to initiate a rule-making process to ensure that prisoners in home confinement will “be given an opportunity to continue their transition back to society” and will not be “unnecessarily re-incarcerated.”
While Tuesday’s statement provides the Bureau of Prisons with the choice to keep offenders at home, it does not guarantee that everyone who is sent home will be eligible to do so.
Anyone found in violation of the BOP’s terms and conditions may have their home confinement privileges revoked.
The vast majority of inmates who have been released from prison since 2020, on the other hand, have followed the regulations to the letter.