Right-Left Coalition Urges Biden Administration to Grant Clemency for Individuals on Home Confinement

July 19, 2021 10:00 am

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WASHINGTON — Today, 20 organizations representing a broad spectrum of American life sent a letter to the Biden administration urging the use of presidential power to commute the sentences of people currently living in home confinement because the federal Bureau of Prisons has determined they qualify under the CARES Act, but who are under threat of being sent back to federal prison.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress passed the CARES Act, which among other things, expanded the federal government’s ability to transfer people from federal prison to serve their sentences at home. Under the Trump administration, thousands of people were released to serve their sentences at home. Not surprisingly, according to publicly available data, less than 1 percent have violated the terms of their release once transferred to home confinement.

Despite the successes of this program, thousands of people are now in danger of being sent back to federal prison by the Biden administration. This is because, on January 15, 2021, the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel issued a memo declaring that people transferred to home confinement under the CARES Act would be sent back to prison once the national COVID emergency ended. Despite public requests to rescind the memo, the Department of Justice has refused to take action to keep these individuals home. If the president refuses to act, these 4,000 people could be sent back to prison, which would be one of the largest single acts of incarceration to date.

“The past six months have been excruciating for thousands of people on home confinement and their families,” said FAMM President Kevin Ring. “Despite doing everything right, they face the prospect of being returned to prison for no good reason. President Biden should act now to remove this cloud from over their heads and keep them home with their families.”

As a consequence, today, thousands of people are living under the threat of being sent back to federal prison. People like 43-year-old Miranda McLaurin, a disabled Army veteran sentenced to five years for a drug offense. She was allowed to go home to Mississippi to serve the rest of her sentence, instead of being imprisoned more than 1,000 miles away in a federal prison in Connecticut. “I came home, I got a job. I’m working,” she said. But now, she and approximately 4,000 people like her are under threat of being sent back to prison.

“President Biden campaigned on the promise of second chances, and made it clear to the ACLU that he will be committed to reducing the federal prison population,” said Udi Ofer, director of the ACLU’s Justice Division. “Now is his opportunity to make good on those commitments. Thousands of people are back at home, reunited with families, rebuilding their lives. President Biden should use his power of clemency to make sure that they stay home and do not go back to prison because of a memo from the previous administration that was wrong on the law and is cruel in implementation.”

The undersigned organizations are urging President Biden to use this opportunity to provide second chances to thousands of people who are already out of prison, reintegrating back into society, reconnecting with their loved ones, getting jobs, and going back to school by using his power of clemency to commute the sentences of people living in home confinement and prevent this impending crisis.

“The sad irony around this tragedy is that the Trump administration felt it was safe for all these individuals to go home, and now, thanks to a bureaucratic technicality, they’re living with the constant threat of going back to prison,” said Holly Harris, president and executive director of the Justice Action Network. “The Biden administration can fix this. Yet for months, they’ve kept these 4,000 people and their families twisting in the wind, unable to fully connect with their families, find employment, and contribute to their communities. It’s cruel, it’s wasted tax dollars, and it doesn’t make us any safer. It’s time for President Biden to grant clemency to these men and women and keep them home.”

Signatories to the letter include the ACLU, FAMM, Justice Action Network, Amnesty International, Brennan Center for Justice, Drug Policy Alliance, Dream Corps JUSTICE, Due Process Institute, Faith and Freedom Coalition, Freedomworks, FWD.us, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, NAACP, NACDL, REFORM Alliance, R Street, Right on Crime, Sentencing Project, Fortune Society, and WE GOT US NOW.

The letter is online here: https://www.aclu.org/letter/coalition-letter-president-biden-cares-act-clemency

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