Thousands of federal convicts who were released from prison during the height of the pandemic and sent home to carry out the their sentences will not be sent back to prison facilities, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Tuesday.
Following an opinion from the Office of Legal Counsel, the DOJ ruled the federal Bureau of Prisons can use discretion when deciding whether offenders who were sent home to serve their sentence can remain home once the state of emergency is lifted.
“Thousands of people on home confinement have reconnected with their families, have found gainful employment, and have followed the rules. In light of today’s Office of Legal Counsel opinion, I have directed that the Department engage in a rulemaking process to ensure that the Department lives up to the letter and spirit of the CARES Act,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said.
“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.”
Under the CARES Act, Congress allowed prisoners to be released for home confinement based on several factors like their age, health and duration of sentence. (RELATED: Man Charged With Murdering 18-Year-Old 2 Days After Being Released From Prison Due To COVID-19: REPORT)
The Trump administration previously issued a memo that inmates who did not serve out their sentence during the pandemic would have to return to prison to do so. Following pressure from prison reform advocates, the Biden administration changed course and accepted the Office of Legal Counsel’s opinion.
Between March of 2020 and Dec. 6, 2021, 35,277 inmates have been placed in home confinement, according to the opinion. As of Dec. 6, 4,879 prisoners were granted extended home confinement under the CARES Act and at least 2,380 prisoners within this group “would have to be returned to a correctional facility under the view expresses in our prior opinion if the emergency were to end immediately,” the opinion stated.