Biden Justice Department drops return federal house arrest convicts

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“We do not deviate lightly from our precedents, and we have considered the views expressed in our prior opinion with care and respect,” Deputy Attorney General Christopher Schroeder wrote in the new 15-page decision.

According to the Bureau of Prisons, around 36,000 federal inmates have been released prematurely due to the pandemic, largely on the basis of Congressional authority included in the CARES law passed in March 2020. Most have finished serving their time. barely, but around 4,500 are threatened with dismissal. in prison at the end of the pandemic emergency.

“Based on a careful examination of the relevant text, structure, purpose and legislative history – and careful consideration of the analysis by the BOP on its own authority – we conclude that a better reading of the pre-existing authorities of the BOP does not require that prisoners in prolonged residence confinement be made en masse to penal institutions at the end of the emergency period, ”wrote Schroeder, who was confirmed in his post in October.

It was about two months later criminal justice and racial justice reformers have expressed outrage Press articles that lawyers for the Biden administration had concluded that the legal opinion issued by the OLC in the final days of the Trump administration was correct. Democratic lawmakers have regularly pressured Attorney General Merrick Garland and other DOJ appointees to back down, as Schroeder did on Tuesday.

“The BOP interpretation avoids requiring the agency to disrupt the community ties that these prisoners have developed to facilitate their eventual reintegration. Instead, it allows the agency to use its expertise to recall prisoners only when it is penologically justified, and avoids a one-size-fits-all policy, ”Schroeder added in the new notice.

Schroeder’s opinion rested heavily on the views of the Bureau of Prisons. The current OLC chief has repeatedly noted that prior to the release of the Trump-era notice in January 2021, BOP officials said they believed they had the legal flexibility to use their discretion to decide whether individual prisoners should stay.

Many who have relied on the Biden administration to back down have celebrated the new opinion.

“Thousands of people can now breathe a sigh of relief knowing that they will be able to stay in their communities where they live and work,” said Udi Ofer of the American Civil Liberties Union. “The ACLU and its allies right and left have called on the DOJ and President Biden to keep people at home, and today the Department of Justice delivered on their word. We congratulate Attorney General Garland and the President Biden for listening to thousands of families who have asked not to be separated from their loved ones. “

Ofer also said Biden should always follow advocates’ suggestion to grant commutations to convicts involved so that they cannot be returned to jail if a new administration decides to revert to the legal perspective of the Trump era.

“We also recognize that the threat of a possible return to prison is still present, so we call on President Biden to use his clemency powers to provide permanent relief to families. A future administration could force people back to prison. , so families will not have permanent shutdowns until their cases are fully resolved, ”the ACLU official said.

Sam Stein contributed to this report.


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