Civil Rights Groups Seek Expansion of White House Clemency

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U.S. civil rights groups are asking the White House to broaden a plan to grant clemency to inmates released to home confinement during the COVID-19 pandemic, reports Reuters. The clemency initiative is an attempt to prevent the return to prison of some 4,800 federal inmates who were released early due to the pandemic emergency in an effort to slow facility transmission rates. The 29 advocacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the Justice Action Network and FAMM say the current policy wrongfully excludes people convicted of non-drug-related crimes or those still facing lengthy sentences.

The Justice Department argues it lacks the legal authority to allow the prisoners to continue to serve their sentences at home after the state of emergency allowed by a March 2020 law expires. While the current policy allows clemency applications from low-level non-violent drug offenders with 18 months to four years left on their prison terms, it bars drug offenders serving lengthy prison terms, as well as white-collar offenders, such as those convicted of tax evasion, bank or mail and wire fraud. Despite lobbying by criminal justice advocates, Bureau of Prisons Director Michael Carvajal has previously said only Congress can change the law defining the limits of home confinement.

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