NY Times Report Paints Underwhelming Picture of Home Confinement

NY Times Report Paints Underwhelming Picture of Home Confinement

Thousands of federal prisoners have been released under the CARES Act during the COVID-19 pandemic. Government officials have determined that these formerly incarcerated people do not represent a safety risk during their release. For many, the officials who released them to home confinement told them that’s where they’d stay for good: at home. But a last-minute Trump era memo said the opposite. It called on those released people to return to prison after the pandemic ends.

For months, we’ve been waiting for the Biden Administration to change course. In July, a New York Times article laid the groundwork for the Biden Administration doing the opposite. We analyzed that reporting here. But prison-reform advocates remained hopeful, calling on the current administration to #KeepThemHome.

More recent reporting suggests that Biden Administration might use clemency to keep some in home confinement.

But, according to a New York Times article from yesterday, the fight to #KeepThemHome isn’t over. According to the Times, the Biden Administration is considering using the president’s clemency powers to commute some of the sentences for those released to home confinement during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Specifically, the administration would only commute the sentences for nonviolent drug offenders who have less than four years remaining on their sentences. This means that those with more than four years left, even if deemed safe enough to release, will go back to prison. It also means that other nonviolent offenders will go back, too.

While the cliché that something’s better than nothing probably applies here, this New York Times report is disappointing. Advocates across the country were optimistic that President Joe Biden would intervene in a meaningful way. One Washington insider that spoke with Interrogating Justice but asked to remain anonymous several months ago even expressed confidence that the Biden Administration would act in a more significant way.

But, as of now, time is running out. And you can be sure that officials won’t delay in replenishing the prisons in the country with the world’s highest incarceration rate.

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