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April 11, 2020

"Virus-wracked federal prisons again expand release criteria: New policy allows home confinement for inmates who've yet to serve half their sentence."

The title of this post is the headline of this new Politco piece, and here are the details:

The federal prison system has quietly broadened the ranks of inmates eligible to be transferred into home confinement as officials seek to limit the continuing spread of the coronavirus behind bars. The latest move by the Bureau of Prisons allows inmates who have yet to complete half of their sentences to be considered for the early release program.  The shift was disclosed Friday in response to a lawsuit filed on behalf of inmates at an Oakdale, Louisiana, prison complex that has seen the deadliest outbreak of COVID-19 among federal facilities.

“Acting upon additional guidance from BOP Regional Office Staff, on the afternoon of April 9th, the reviewing staff have also expanded the criteria, removing the eighth factor, consideration of whether inmates in low or minimum facilities have served 50% of their sentence,” prison official Juan Segovia wrote in a court filing [available here].  Segovia said the change resulted in officials reviewing another 90 prisoners for possible transfer home, of which 15 were found “potentially eligible” and prepared for a 14-day pre-release quarantine.

Some inmates continue to be disqualified because they were convicted of violent offenses or child pornography-related crimes or because computerized “risk assessment” tools did not rate them among the least likely to re-offend, the prison official said. However, Segovia suggested those criteria could be relaxed further in the coming days. “Staff continue to receive guidance on this matter and the number of inmates being given priority consideration is expanding daily,” he wrote. “Once we complete the [current] review … I have been informed that the institution may consider expanding the criteria for review.”

Six inmates have died so far at the Oakdale prison complex, with 40 prisoners and 17 staff confirmed infected with the virus, according to official statistics released Friday. Nationwide, 9 federal prisoners have died, 318 inmates and 163 staff have been confirmed as infected with the virus. Testing of prisoners has been limited, so the true infection rate is believed to be higher....

A Bureau of Prisons spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday on the recent policy changes, including who decided to waive the earlier requirement a prisoner must have served at least half of their sentence.  Expanding that home confinement eligibility could aid many white-collar convicts given the nature of their crimes, but prison officials still appear to be prioritizing those at facilities suffering serious outbreaks of the virus as well as prisoners who are at particular risk due to health conditions or age.

Announcing the new criteria could also complicate the work of federal prosecutors who are being inundated with motions requesting resentencing of defendants to home confinement due to the dangers posted by the virus.  “Reducing the sentence of the defendant to less than half of what he was sentenced to serve, particularly given where he is housed and the speculative basis of his motion, is unwarranted,” New York-based prosecutors wrote Friday as they resisted such a bid by a prisoner serving at a Pennsylvania federal prison that has yet to see a confirmed case of the virus.

The prison system does not consider transfers to home confinement to be “releases.”  Such convicts are normally put on GPS monitoring, but Barr has waived that requirement for now due to the volume of transfers and logistics difficulties related to the pandemic.

A few of many prior related posts:

April 11, 2020 at 09:02 PM | Permalink

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