DOJ gives inmates on home confinement a happy holiday gift—the possibility of permanent freedom

The Department of Justice (DOJ) made a decision today that can only be considered one thing to thousands of people…; a Christmas miracle.

In a stunning reversal, the DOJ”;s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) ruled to allow inmates released from prison at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to remain free even after the federal CARES Act, a coronavirus health emergency, concludes.

The OLC determined that the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has the “;discretion to permit prisoners in extended home confinement to remain there.”

The decision was made after Attorney General Merrick Garland reviewed the law personally, NPR reports, and after months of pressure from prison reform activists urging the DOJ and President Joe Biden”;s administration to reconsider.

Since March 2020, the BOP has placed 36,000 inmates on home confinement to help stem the tide of the COVID-19 spread in jails and prisons, according to the agency”;s website.

The Washington Post reports that, while more than 25,000 of those inmates have now completed their sentences, nearly 8,000 remain on home confinement. About 3,000 would have been forced to return if the DOJ had not overturned the Trump-era order.

Previously, BOP made decisions about inmates on an individual basis.

Christopher H. Schroeder, an assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel, wrote in a 15-page memo that the agency should not “;disrupt the community connections these prisoners have developed in aid of their eventual reentry.”;

So far, 273 federal inmates and seven BOP staff members have died of COVID-19; 11 of the inmate deaths occurred while on home confinement.

Tuesday Garland met with several inmates who”;d been released under the CARES Act, according to the Post.

“Thousands of people on home confinement have reconnected with their families, have found gainful employment, and have followed the rules,” Garland said in a written statement. “We will exercise our authority so that those who have made rehabilitative progress and complied with the conditions of home confinement, and who in the interests of justice should be given an opportunity to continue transitioning back to society, are not unnecessarily returned to prison.”

Kevin Ring, president of the nonprofit prisoner advocacy organization Families Against Mandatory Minimums, tells the Post the “;cloud has been over their heads for 11 months.”; Adding: “;We tried to sound the alarm early and get the administration to do this. It was frustrating at times, but they got to the right result.”;

Holly Harris, the president, and executive director of Justice Action Network, a bipartisan criminal justice reform group, praised the new memo.

“;People have gotten jobs and reconnected with their children,”; Harris told The New York Times. “;The relief they have to be feeling right now is overwhelming.”;

Garland has reversed course from former President Donald Trump on many law enforcement and criminal justice issues. Garland issued a moratorium on federal executions while the DOJ reviews its policies and procedures. And he lifted the use of consent decrees to address police misconduct–;court-approved agreements or settlements that resolve disputes, but neglect to assign guilt.

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Written by mettablog

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