Just before leaving office in January, the Justice Department under the outgoing administration issued a memo
saying that those released on home confinement through the CARES Act would need to return to prison after the Covid-19 emergency ended. Of the more than 7,500 people
under home confinement, a substantial number could be forced back to prison -- the precise number isn't known.
President Joe Biden must use his power of clemency to commute all the sentences of people who are already living at home under the CARES Act, not posing a public safety threat. Sadly, the administration is beginning a clemency process by only reviewing nonviolent drug offenders with four or less years to serve
. It's not clear how many of the thousands of people who are on home confinement fit this narrow category, but it's concerning that the President's plan is to only begin providing relief to a subset of eligible individuals
, without clearly indicating that expanding the eligibility requirement is a possibility. What does that mean for the many others who have been anxious about what Trump's memo could mean for their futures? I can't overstate how much the lack of transparency and communication by the Biden administration is contributing to people's anxiety and fear.
This is particularly upsetting when evidence shows how the home confinement experiment has been incredibly successful. The bureau screened a population of 150,000
federal prisoners and allowed those of high vulnerability to Covid-19 who posed a low risk to public safety to enter home confinement. Michael Carvajal, the director of the Bureau of Prisons, said during a Senate judiciary hearing in April that of the total number of people released on home confinement because of Covid-19, just three had been arrested for new crimes
If Biden doesn't offer clemency to every person who has shown to be a productive member of society while under the CARES Act home confinement program, then essentially the administration would be upholding the Trump administration's mean-spirited directive
This would run counter to the criminal justice reform Biden promised on the 2020 campaign trail. Last year, he said: "I know we haven't always gotten things right
," surely referring, in part, to the 1994 crime bill that he supported and that is often blamed for today's mass incarceration problem. Well before Biden's run for office in 2020, as a senator in 2007, he sponsored the Second Chance Ac