The Pandemic Showed Home Detention Works

In the right circumstances, home detention is cheaper and more effective than prison.


Whenever the government declares the pandemic is officially over, thousands of nonviolent, low-level offenders may be sent back to prison. The Biden administration claims it is legally required to send the offenders back, but there's nothing stopping it from using mass commutations to stop this from happening.

Approximately 4,000 low-level, nonviolent prisoners who were released to home detention during the pandemic will have to return to prison when the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act expires and the official state of emergency ends (which seems unlikely to happen in 2021 due to the delta variant). The law gave the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) authority to allow certain inmates, with more than six months or 10 percent of their sentences remaining, to serve their time on home detention. When the CARES Act expires, however, the BOP's authority to allow these prisoners to serve out the rest of their sentences on home detention likewise expires.

These offenders represent the absolute minimum in risks to public safety. To qualify for home detention under the CARES Act, prisoners had to meet stringent criteria and rigorous screening requirements. Anyone convicted of a violent crime, sex offenses, or terrorism-related offenses was automatically disqualified, as was anyone subject to deportation. Anyone who engaged in violent or gang-related activity while incarcerated, or was considered risky using a risk assessment tool, was also disqualified. Further, BOP officials, exercising prudent correctional discretion, declined to release many otherwise eligible prisoners on the basis that their criminal history, conduct in prison, or lack of a viable reentry plan increased their risk of recidivism. As a result, many legislators, prisoners' rights advocates, and judges actually condemned the BOP for being overly cautious in refusing to release more prisoners to home detention.

The preliminary data are quite promising: The overwhelming majority of those released on home detention have not reoffended. Of the 28,881 prisoners allowed on home detention last year, only 151 individuals, less than 1 percent, violated the terms of their confinement. Only one person has committed a new crime. Additionally, research on technical parole and probation violations shows that removing people from community supervision and reincarcerating them when they have not committed an offense increases the likelihood of criminal recidivism and makes future reentry into society more difficult.

In short, home detention seems to be largely successful. Most prisoners under the program have stayed out of trouble and are working to become law-abiding citizens. In doing so, they are saving taxpayers the exorbitant price of incarceration—which, on average, costs over $37,500 per year versus $13,000 per year for home confinement and monitoring.

Those released into home confinement are currently living in fear—they have no idea what their futures hold. They have reintegrated into society, and many have reconciled with their families, enrolled in school, and found employment. Alina Feas, who was serving an 11-year sentence for a nonviolent offense, is plagued with anxiety every day. Since being placed under home confinement over 15 months ago, she has rejoined her family, has not violated any conditions of her release, and demonstrated she deserves to remain at home. Brian Carr, who has already served five years of a seven-year sentence, decided to strive for success by enrolling in school with the hopes of starting his own business. This, of course, would be impossible if he is forced to return to prison.

Like the BOP, many states have implemented a variety of early release mechanisms to quell crowding in the face of the pandemic, including granting furloughs, sentence commutations, community supervision, electronic home monitoring, and early parole to nonviolent, low-level offenders whose risk assessments show them to be of little risk to public safety. State data on recidivism rates of those granted early release under these mechanisms are limited at this point, but some preliminary results are encouraging. In Hawaii, initial findings show low rates of recidivism for inmates granted early release—approximately 8 percent have reoffended compared to around 50 percent released on parole pre-pandemic.

It's important to understand that serving a sentence on home confinement is not a "get out of prison free" card; it is still punishment. Prisoners in home confinement are closely monitored and subject to strict behavioral rules. They are allowed only limited movement during certain hours to participate in rehabilitative activities such as school, drug treatment, job skills training, and religious events. If they break any of these rules, they are sent back to prison. But, at least to the BOP's knowledge, the vast majority of prisoners on home detention who now face incarceration have not broken any of these rules. They have proven that they can do well under home detention; they should not be punished by the Biden administration.

There's broad agreement across the political spectrum that our criminal justice system should cost less and achieve better results—commuting these sentences would do exactly that. In the interest of public welfare, public safety, and fiscal responsibility, President Joe Biden should utilize his constitutionally granted powers and commute these sentences rather than send 4,000 nonviolent offenders back to prison.

NEXT: Biden Admits New CDC Eviction Moratorium Runs Counter to ‘the Bulk of the Constitutional Scholarship’

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  1. Home detention seems to work quite well for everyone, criminal and non-criminal alike.

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  2. From the headline I honestly thought the article was going to be about shelter-in-place orders.

    1. I call them “tremble in place” orders.

      1. I call em lockups.

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    2. Antifa, BLM and Defund the Police are all part of the problem, along with prosecutors playing politics and police choosing to look the other way.

  3. So with increased crime rates in most major urban centers… what is the cause?

    BLM/Defund the Police seems to be out as a cause.
    Release of prisoners seems to be out as a cause.
    Can’t be lack of employment as people enjoy their enhanced UI and non payment of rent.

    What is Reason going to infer the crime rate increases are actually from?

    1. I don’t think anyone knows for sure. I think you have to look at it on a local level. Gang warfare in Chicago for example.

    2. Cops working from home?

  4. You could also use home detention for violent offenders. Kind of like how China handled covid patients in Wuhan.

  5. I am all for it especially non violent first time offenders. Prison is expensive and counter productive most of the time.

  6. when the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act expires and the official state of emergency ends (which seems unlikely to happen in 2021 due to the delta variant)

    No, it’s unlikely due to government’s addiction to power.

  7. >>4,000 low-level, nonviolent prisoners

    did they require bars in their faces in the first place?

  8. So that’s the takeaway? You can put 300M people on home detention, and it works?

  9. The Pandemic Showed Home Detention Works

    Everyone in the country was detained at home in 2020. Or when the media cavalierly uses “lockdown”, it’s just an accident they use prison terminology?

  10. The preliminary data are quite promising: The overwhelming majority of those released on home detention have not reoffended.

    Well, yeah? I mean, as you point out, they cherry-picked the least likely to re-offend offenders for this. Like, people who shouldn’t have been in jail in the first place.

    This says nothing about efficacy of home-imprisonment, only that maybe we’re stuffing people in jail who should have been on parole or diversion right from the get-go.

    1. Do you think the authors or editor expected the article to be an argument for prison-at-home?

    2. Exactly this. It’s not that home detention “works” in the broad sense, it’s that we’re likely putting people in jail that never should have been there.

      1. Also, how does “home detention” work of the convict doesn’t have a ‘home’?

  11. All because you are a nonviolent criminal doesn’t mean you should not be in prison. How would those defrauded by Bernie Madoff feel if he was released to home detention in some posh mansion while they live in a seedy condo because they lost their life savings? What about corrupt politicians serving time? They ripped off the tax payers for millions but hey, you can serve your home detention at your cabin on the upper peninsula. Prison is not just a warehouse for violent felons, it’s punishment for the offender. Home detention is the adult version of being grounded, nothing more. With all the lockdowns, it is indistinguishable from otherwise normal life. Hardly a punishment at all.

    1. The overwhelming majority of non-violent prisoners are not Bernie Madoff level fraudsters.

  12. Ok. We observe that knowledge is power. Strong enough to equal house arrest.

    Thing is, secrets perpetrated by lies are an attempt to control knowledge. Is that what you want?

    For many centuries secret societies, like the free masons have operated secretly in plain sight. Today their membership includes most if not everyone on the words stage, politicians, industry leaders, entertainers and the Pope.

    They only achieve world stage status by invitation from other members and they in turn only advance the careers of members. It grows like a virus.

    Free masonry is a satanic religion that is taking over the world to create a new world order based on satanism without interference from Christianity.

    Satan is the god of nature. Like animals, you do what you want, lie, steal and murder. There are no morals or ethics because there is no distinction between good and evil. Post truth.

    There are no inalienable rights or wrongs. Might makes the winner.

    Only the tenets of Christianity have stood in its way for the last two thousand years and brought us all the benefits of civilization.

    Satanism hates Christianity because inalienable rights like free speech and the right to life inhibit the whims of the satanist.

    Altiyan Childs is an Australian entertainer and a free mason who has had a change of heart and decided to show the world the truth.

    His 5 hour video lays out irrefutable evidence of the extent and intent of the purpose of the secret religion, based on promise of fortune to those who take the required criminal oaths.

    By watching it you will recognize that you fall into one of two groups, supporters of a new world satanic order and those who oppose and expose it.

    1. One third of the nation’s founders were Freemasons. Members of a secret satanic society whose secrecy of objectives and methods supersedes the constitution.

      These satanic symbols can be found everywhere, in monuments, worn by leaders and on the currency.

      1. Members of a secret satanic society whose secrecy of objectives and methods supersedes the constitution.

        You mean just like Catholics, Southern Baptists, and Mormons?

        1. What are the alleged secrets in those religions that you are referring to?

          With Freemasonry, the secrets are illegal oaths, employment discrimination, Satanism, conspiracy to create a new world order.

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  14. The preliminary data are inconclusive: The overwhelming majority of those released on home detention have not been caught reoffending. But, concomitant with their release there has been a sharp rise in crime coupled with a defunding of police that could explain the apparent ‘lack’ of recidivism


  15. On April 5, the Bureau of Prisons issued an update to their home confinement policy in response to Covid-19. Notably, individuals can be released to home confinement without submitting a request. At the same time, anyone who thinks they’re eligible for home confinement may apply for release and provide a release plan to their case manager.

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