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September 17, 2021

Biden Urged to Commute Sentences of Thousands of Home-Confined Felons

Credit: Newsmax, Scott D. Jones

More than two dozen House Democrats are asking President Biden to commute the sentences of thousands of inmates who were placed in home confinement due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a report in The Hill, the prisoners were placed on home confinement as part of the CARES Act in an effort to combat the spread of COVID-19 in federal prison populations. The measure, passed in March 2020, gave the Bureau of Prisons authority to transfer select prisoners to home confinement.

The CARES Act measure specifically targeted inmates who had 10 percent of their sentence remaining (or six months left, whichever was shorter) and were already eligible for home confinement before the pandemic. But the measure also expanded the authority of the Bureau of Prisons to place more inmates on home confinement.

Twenty-five House Democrats, including Cori Bush of Missouri, Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey, Pramila Jayapal of Washington, and Rep. David Trone of Maryland, in a letter sent Friday to the Biden administration, requested that in addition to commuting those sentences, the administration should establish a review board for pending clemency petitions.

“We urge you to use your authority as President to immediately commute the sentences of the 4,000 people who, under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act, are currently on home confinement and at risk of being sent back to federal prison, and further, to create an independent clemency board to review the more than 15,000 pending clemency petitions,” the lawmakers wrote in Friday’s letter.

According to the U.S, Bureau of Prisons, 7,623 people are currently on home confinement. Since March 2020, nearly 32,000 incarcerated people have been put on home confinement under the agency’s new authority, with many finishing their sentences during that period.

The Hill reports the administration has reportedly begun to ask those in the home confinement program for nonviolent drug offenses and who have less than four years left on their sentence to submit commutation applications. However, Friday’s letter noted that if the pandemic-era program were to end, thousands of people would be returned to prison.