Biden Plans to Order Prisoners Released during COVID Pandemic Back to Prison

Photo credit: Martin do Nascimento for The Texas Tribune

By Sandra Harris

This week, the Biden administration has declared that thousands of federal prisoners released during the COVID-19 pandemic would be required to return to prison once the federal declaration of emergency passes. Federal law passed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic allowed prisoners to serve either the remaining 10 percent or six months of their sentence, whichever is shorter, through home confinement. Biden’s administration is following through in agreement with a legal memo that was issued by the Department of Justice under Trump shortly before Biden’s inauguration.

Under the CARES Act passed in March 2020, Congress authorized the Justice Department to lengthen the time an inmate could be placed in home confinement during the “covered emergency period,” which was defined as ending 30 days after whenever the declared COVID-19 national emergency ends. About 24,000 prisoners whom the State determined were nonviolent were allowed to serve their sentences at home or in halfway houses to slow the spread of the virus.

The Bureau of Prisons testified to Congress in May that out of the thousands released, only 21 violated the terms of their home confinement. One of these instances was a 76-year-old Black woman named Gwen Levi who was initially sent back to prison for not answering a phone call from authorities while at a computer class. The woman was subsequently released due to widespread public outrage following the incident.

Currently, 4,000 people would be required to return to prison under the Biden administration’s plan. Many of these people have started jobs and settled back into their communities, and several have spoken out about how returning to prison would devastate their lives and the lives of their loved ones. Biden has the ability to commute sentences and could use his clemency powers but has quickly backtracked on his campaign promise to reduce the federal prison population.

The federal prison population is steadily increasing under the Biden administration. At the start of his term, the federal prison population totaled 151,646—as of July 15, 2021, it has increased by nearly 3,000. Jail and prison populations are also increasing throughout the United States generally, even while these inmates are still at risk for contracting COVID-19.

With a total incarcerated population in the US standing at 1.8 million at the end of 2020, the fake ‘progressive’ image Biden tried to promote during his campaign is exposed as his administration oversees a continual climb in the number of people behind bars.


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