Federal Prisons

Pressure Grows on Biden To Rescind Memo That Would Send Thousands Released on Home Confinement Back to Federal Prison

More than 4,000 people released on home confinement could be sent back to federal prison after the pandemic. Senators and advocacy groups say it's cruel and unnecessary.

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A Justice Department memo released shortly before President Donald Trump left office could send roughly 4,000 people who were transferred to home confinement during the COVID-19 pandemic back to federal prison.

Now, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in Congress and criminal justice advocacy groups are demanding that the Biden administration rescind that memo, arguing it would be unnecessary and cruel to those who've started rebuilding their lives on the outside.

The memo, issued on January 15 by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, says that those transferred from federal prison to home confinement last year due to a provision in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act expanding releases of elderly and at-risk inmates will have to return to prison once the pandemic is deemed over. 

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday on the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) response to COVID-19, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R–Iowa) and Dick Durbin (D–Ill.) questioned BOP Director Michael Carvajal about the potential re-incarceration.

"Obviously, if they can stay where they are, it's going to save the taxpayers a lot of money, and it would also help people who aren't prone to re-offend and allows inmates to successfully re-enter society as productive citizens," Grassley said. 

Grassley noted that only 151 of the roughly 24,000 inmates who were transferred into home confinement since last March had violated the terms of their release.

"The president recently extended the national emergency," Carvajal said. "There's no rush to bring these [people] back."

Carvajal also said the BOP is working with the laws on the books. The CARES Act did not change the statutory requirements for when a federal inmate can be transferred to home confinement.

"If they have successfully been out there, we're going to use good judgment and common sense and work within the law to make sure we place them appropriately, Carvajal said. "We have plenty of bed space in our minimum-security camps. I simply ask that either the statute is changed, or that people understand that we're working within the parameters we've been given."

More than two dozen members of Congress sent President Joe Biden a letter last week urging his administration to reverse the memo.

"The vast majority of those people on home confinement today have reunited with their families and are working and contributing to society," the letter says. "They were not told they would have to return to prison and forcing them to do so would be cruel and devastating. You rightly pledged to reduce the federal prison population. Sending thousands of people back to federal prison who have already proven that they do not need to be there would undermine this commitment and would undermine, not advance, public safety."

Among those facing re-incarceration is Dennis Alba. "I was granted home confinement last May," Alba wrote to FAMM, a criminal justice advocacy group. "I got a great job and rented an apartment a few miles from the office, and I can walk to work. I am 71, so readjusting after 19 years in fed prison takes a little time. If I have to go back to prison, I would lose everything I have worked so hard for. I NEVER would have gone through the expense of buying furniture, clothes, renting a place to live and other expenses if I know I would be returning to prison."

FAMM, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, Prison Fellowship, the Brennan Center, and other criminal justice organizations, is also urging Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland to rescind the memo.

And although Carvajal assured senators that the BOP is prepared to handle an influx of thousands of inmates, the BOP system has been notoriously short-staffed for years.

"We don't have the staff," Council of Prison Locals Southeast Regional Vice President Joe Rojas told Reuters. "We are already in chaos as it is as an agency."

The Justice Department did not respond to requests for comment.

NEXT: Michigan Moving To Make ‘Emergency’ COVID-19 Mandates Permanent

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  1. Boy, did you pick the wrong president and vice president for this.

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    2. Lulz.

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  2. What the hell, let everybody out, and repeal all the laws.
    Let’s start over.

    1. Can we call it the great reset?

  3. “ They were not told they would have to return to prison ”

    Lol. Wut? Released because pandemic but now pandemic is over they should stay out because reasons?

    What about the next 24,000 prisoners who had to stay in prison because there was room for them? Shouldn’t they have the chance to rebuild their lives?

    Isn’t THE WHOLE POINT of prison to deter crime by fucking up your life?

    1. Along those lines….

      unnecessary and cruel to those who’ve started rebuilding their lives on the outside.

      Could the cruelty arise because while *serving a prison sentence* “in home confinement” these folks had unlimited phone, internet, and, um, buddy access?

      1. They clicked on the links from all the bots.

  4. Well, looking at MI, the pandemic is never going to end, so this is a non-problem.

    1. This. The entire article is a purely academic discussion.

  5. I’m not sure where I stand on this, but I sure as hell know where NBC stands on it.

    Bernie Madoff died in prison, where he belonged. So how do you mourn him?
    It’s wrong, no doubt, to take pleasure in a man’s death. And yet it’s difficult to feel sorrow for a man who has been the cause of so much suffering.

    1. What is interesting they have recovered more than 80% by guilt tripping those who thought they earned profits (but didn’t) into paying it back. Fascinating story of how they did it.

      WSJ: “After Bernie Madoff’s Death, Efforts to Recover Ill-Gotten Funds Go On”

      More than a decade has passed since Mr. Madoff confessed to his crimes and began serving a 150-year sentence. In time, a court-appointed trustee learned the scheme had taken an estimated $17.5 billion of client money, of which more than $14 billion has been recouped and distributed to account holders at Mr. Madoff’s now-defunct investment firm.

    2. LOLwut? Do they really think that we don’t know they’ll cheer if, e.g., Trump were to die? Just look at social media’s behavior when Limbaugh passed.

      “Wrong to take pleasure in a man’s death…” Where do they come up with this shit?

  6. Senator Grassley made a good point. There are substantial cost savings leaving these elderly prisoners where they are, not on the public dime. Frankly, I would have no problem putting them back in prison, they certainly deserve it. This is a trade-off I think we can make = leave elderly prisoners home (elderly is over 75, to me).

    The rest? Get their asses back to prison.

    1. Don’t put people in prison because money?

      Ok. Why stop with these people?

      1. Because younger cohorts are less expensive to house and treat. That’s why.

      2. Bubba….it is the trade-off to consider. To me, this is common sense.

        Are elderly prisoners over age 75 likely to commit violent crimes? No.
        Are they likely to commit any crimes? Probably not, according to the data.

  7. Pressure Grows on Biden To Rescind Memo That Would Send Thousands Released on Home Confinement Back to Federal Prison

    More than 4,000 people released on home confinement could be sent back to federal prison after the pandemic. Senators and advocacy groups say it’s cruel and unnecessary.

    Michigan Moving To Make ‘Emergency’ COVID-19 Mandates Permanent

    Nothing is more permanent than an “emergency” mandate.

  8. Meanwhile a black woman beat up a mexican woman because she thought she was “asian”. So not only is this a black thang they apparently can’t tell the difference.

    Time to up the incarcerations again.

    1. To be fair, in the 50s through 80s it was not uncommon for Mexicans/Puerto Ricans to play Asians on TV and in movies.

      Henry Siilva as Mr. Moto. Ricardo Montalban as Khan (Indian, presumably) and IIRC, a recurring role on Hawaii 5-0 as an Japanese villain (Nakamura? Something like that).

  9. This could be the right move, in part, though as usual people are giving the wrong reasons. Once you harm someone enough to be given a felony sentence, and a long one in Alba’s case, what you want or need or deserve is no longer relevant except with regard to how what happens to you affects innocent people. So the reasons to keep someone on home arrest need to be based on whether this benefits society by saving us money and whether or not you are a potential danger to other people. It has nothing to do with whether you really like being on home arrest, got a good job, invested in furniture (lol) or any of the other “1,000 tiny violins playing” reasons given in the article. What you the felon want isn’t relevant. What is best for the law-abiding society is. Keep them there if they have served their minimum sentence, haven’t broken parole, are gainfully employed, and are assessed to no longer be a danger to others. That will help overcrowding in prisons and will save the non-felon taxpayer money. Having more people working instead of being in prison will help the economy and the stability of society.

    I presume these people wear ankle monitors and aren’t simply trusted to be where they are supposed to be? If so, let’s find more non-violent offenders to release to home confinement on a trial basis. And let’s reform the justice system so that minor drug possession no longer leads to felony sentences. Intervene when offenders are young and have only committed their first crime and rehab as many as you can. But don’t play me tiny violins for violent felons.

    1. I think that was a Frank Zappa song on Joe’s Garage Vol 2.

  10. “Grassley noted that only 151 of the roughly 24,000 inmates who were transferred into home confinement since last March had violated the terms of their release.”

    Mind you, that’s a higher percentage than most of the COVID numbers have been to date.

  11. “Carvajal also said the BOP is working with the laws on the books. The CARES Act did not change the statutory requirements for when a federal inmate can be transferred to home confinement.”

    So, despite the headline, this statement indicates that the problem isn’t an executive branch memo but rather what statutes instruct the executive branch to do. So, rather than writing letters to the President, why don’t the legislators actually, you know, *legislate*? Pass a bill to fix it, ask the president to sign it.

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