Inmates can remain in home confinement after COVID-19 emergency ends, DOJ rules

Schroeder, a Biden nominee, wrote that giving the Prison Bureau discretion on reincarceration "allows the agency to use its expertise to recall prisoners only where penologically justified, and avoids a blanket, one-size-fits-all policy."

Updated: December 21, 2021 - 5:35pm

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The Justice Department announced Tuesday that thousands of inmates who were released to home confinement during the COVID-19 pandemic should not automatically be re-imprisoned after the health emergency ends.

Attorney General Merrick Garland directed the DOJ to grant the U.S. Bureau of Prisons discretion to decide if prisoners released to home confinement should be returned to federal facilities or remain at their houses. This reverses a decision under the Trump DOJ that would have recalled nearly 8,000 prisoners released under the CARES Act. 

More than 36,000 inmates have been released to home confinement since March 2020, according to The Washington Post. Many have completed their prison sentences while others have been re-incarcerated for violating rules.

Assistant Attorney General Christopher Schroeder issued a 15-page opinion memo for Garland about the policy. Schroeder, a Biden nominee, wrote that giving the Bureau of Prisons discretion on re-incarceration "allows the agency to use its expertise to recall prisoners only where penologically justified, and avoids a blanket, one-size-fits-all policy."

In a statement Tuesday, Garland directed DOJ to follow through on Schroeder's recommendation, writing it will "ensure that the Department lives up to the letter and the spirit of the CARES Act."

"Thousands of people on home confinement have reconnected with their families, have found gainful employment, and have followed the rules," Garland stated. "We will exercise our authority so that those who have made rehabilitative progress and complied with the conditions of home confinement, and who in the interests of justice should be given an opportunity to continue transitioning back to society, are not unnecessarily returned to prison."