Biden Administration Pre-Christmas Surprise: Overturns Trump-Era Prison Home Confinement Memo, Draws Big Praise from Once Critical ACLU

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By Darling Gonzalez

WASHINGTON DC – ACLU released a statement late last week praising the Biden administration’s decision to overturn a Trump administration memo that would have forced thousands of people to go back to prison after being sent home during COVID-19.

Only days before the ACLU was criticizing the Administration for not committing to help thousands.

“The Justice Department moved…to allow certain federal inmates to remain on home confinement when the government declares an end to the Covid emergency, reversing a Trump-era legal opinion that said the Bureau of Prisons would have to recall them to federal facilities,” reported the ACLU.

The ACLU called it an “unusual shift,” and a “rare instance when the department under Attorney General Merrick B. Garland reversed a high-profile Trump-era decision,” adding “It was also a victory for criminal justice advocates.

“Thousands of people on home confinement have reconnected with their families, have found gainful employment and have followed the rules,” Garland said in a statement.

And, a White House spokesman, said in another statement President Biden also “welcomed the change, noting the relief it will mean for thousands of individuals on home confinement who have worked hard toward rehabilitation and are contributing to their communities.”

Before the pre-holiday gift, the ACLU was strongly critical of Biden Administration, noting how the CARES Act expanded the federal government’s ability to transfer people from prison to serve their sentences at home.

Under the Trump administration, thousands of people were allowed to serve their sentences at home and according to public data less than one percent had violated the terms of their release.

Despite the successes of the CARES Act, thousands of people were at risk of being sent back to prison under Biden’s administration, said the ACLU, adding “President Biden campaigned on the promise of second chances, and made it clear to the ACLU that he will be committed to reducing the federal prison population,” said Udi Ofer, director of the ACLU’s Justice Division.

According to the ACLU, in July, 20 organizations sent a letter to the Biden administration urging the use of presidential power to protect those in danger of being sent back to federal prison.

This letter was sent due to the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel’s issue of a memo declaring that people transferred to home confinement under the CARES Act would be sent back to prison once the national COVID emergency ended.

FAMM President Kevin Ring mentioned how the majority of people who had been in home confinement would be sent back to prison despite doing everything right and that President Biden needed to act immediately to keep them home with their families.

In the article, “ACLU Statement on Biden’s Administration Decision to Rescind Trump-Era Memo on Home Confinement,” the Justice Department’s decision to overturn the memo that would force people back to prison left many excited, but not completely satisfied.

The ACLU’s Ofer stated, “We also recognize that the threat of eventual return to prison is still present, so we ask President Biden to use his clemency powers to provide permanent relief to families.”

The imminent threat for people who had been moved from prison to home confinement had been temporarily relieved by the Biden administration’s decision to overturn the Trump-era memo, but there would still be concerns over the people’s permanent placement.

“A future administration can still force people back to prison, and families will not have permanent closure until their cases are fully resolved. So while we celebrate today, we also commit to continuing to advocate for President Biden to use his power of clemency to commute these sentences,” Ofer explained.

A poll released by the ACLU a day earlier also supported these claims as 68 percent of voters agreed that it would be unfair to send those individuals back to prison.

Although the Biden administration provided some relief for these families, there is still a need for a more stable, permanent decision that could alleviate the worries of returning to prison for thousands of people who have thrived with their return back to their families.

About The Author

Darling is an incoming junior at UCLA, majoring in English and Political Science with an interest in law. She is originally from Bell Gardens, California.

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