Two top Democrats in the U.S. Senate urged President Joe Biden to issue an executive order that would negate a Trump administration policy that called on federal inmates who had been released to home confinement because of the COVID-19 risk to return to prison.
“We urge you to use your unfettered pardon power to immediately commute the sentences of those on home confinement pursuant to the CARES Act,” Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said in a letter to Biden on Thursday.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act “provided critical relief from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic” by expanding the Bureau of Prisons authority to allow federal inmates to be released on home confinement and reducing prison populations, the letter says.
So far the program has been a success. Less than 1% of the more than 24,000 prisoners released to home confinement have returned to prison due to rule violations. But in the final days of President Donald Trump’s administration, the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel issued a memorandum opinion saying that inmates released to home confinement would have to return to prison following the pandemic, which continues to rage across the country.
“Given the breadth of available executive authority, no person who has successfully transitioned to home confinement should be required to return to federal prison,” the letter says. “The uncertainty of the current situation unnecessarily interferes with the efforts of those on home confinement to rebuild their lives and participate in our economic recovery. With the goal of facilitating successful community reentry, we urge you to act immediately to resolve this issue and enable those on release to move forward with their lives.”
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