Inmates Can Stay in Home Confinement, DOJ Says

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Wednesday, December 22, 2021 - 7:03am

Under pressure from criminal justice reform advocates, the Justice Department reversed a Trump-era legal opinion that could have required several thousand federal convicts to return to prison from home confinement if the Biden administration declares an end to the pandemic national emergency. That seems remote with the rise of the Omicron variant, but the opinion from the Office of Legal Counsel meets demands from reformers and lawmakers that officials find a way to allow prisoners who've been living at home for a year or more under pandemic-related legal authorities to remain at home to serve the remainder of their sentences, Politico reports.

"We do not lightly depart from our precedents, and we have given the views expressed in our prior opinion careful and respectful consideration," said Assistant Attorney General Christopher Schroeder. About 36,000 federal inmates were released early due to the pandemic, largely based on authority Congress included in the CARES Act passed in March 2020. Most have finished serving their sentences, but about 4,500 faced the threat of being returned to prison when the pandemic emergency terminates. Two months ago, reformers expressed outrage about press reports that Biden administration lawyers had concluded that the legal opinion OLC issued in the waning days of the Trump administration was correct. "We thank Attorney General Garland for responding to our request to rescind this Trump-era opinion and look forward to continuing to work with the Biden Administration on community-based strategies to improve our criminal justice system," said Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Cory Booker (D-NJ).

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