The Justice Department has moved to allow certain federal inmates to remain in home confinement when the government declares an end to the COVID emergency, reversing a high-profile Trump-era decision that would have otherwise required them to return behind bars, reports the New York Times. Congress gave the Bureau of Prisons the authority to release federal inmates to home confinement as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, passed in March 2020 to address threats posed by the coronavirus pandemic, including risks to people in overcrowded prisons.
Of the approximately 4,900 inmates placed on home confinement under the CARES Act, about 2,800 would return to prison if the coronavirus emergency were to end. The Trump-era memo had created a state of dread for people still facing long sentences ahead of them for nonviolent crimes. The new memo gives the Bureau of Prisons “discretion to permit prisoners in extended home confinement to remain there,” a decision that still leaves life for inmates in the hands of the Justice Department. “Thousands of people on home confinement have reconnected with their families, have found gainful employment and have followed the rules,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.