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February 7, 2022

Celebrating "real" recidivism is essentially nil, and even technical violations stunningly low, for CARES home confinement cohort

Data from the US Sentencing Commission indicates that roughly 1 in 4 persons who serve time in federal prison gets rearrested within the first two years after release (see Table 2 in this 2016 USSC report), though some rearrests are for a violation of supervision conditions rather than a new crime.  Though I dislike when recidivism is broadly defined to included just "technical" violations, these USSC data provide useful and needed context for this Washington Times article headlined "320 federal inmates reoffended while on pandemic-related home confinement."  Here are excerpts (with emphasis added):

More than 300 federal inmates who were transferred to home confinement as a pandemic mitigation strategy reoffended and were sent back to prison, a top federal official said Thursday. Bureau of Prisons Director Michael Carvajal told the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security that substance abuse was the “most common” offense that landed inmates back behind bars.

“About 160 of those 320 were for abuse of alcohol or drugs,” Mr. Carvajal said. “Some of them were escapes – they weren’t where they were supposed to be – most of them were violations of that nature. Some was misconduct, eight of those were new crimes committed, the rest of those were technical violations.”

A bureau spokesperson told The Washington Times that six of the eight new crimes were drug-related, one was for escape with prosecution and one was for smuggling non-citizens....

During Thursday’s hearing, he said the 320 reoffending inmates are among more than 37,000 who were transferred to home confinement since Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) in March 2020 to address threats posed by the pandemic.

The CARES Act allows the bureau to transfer certain low-level inmates convicted of nonviolent crimes to home confinement if they meet the COVID-19 risk factors identified by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While some transfers have been put back in prison, others have completed their sentences and 5,485 inmates are still in home confinement.

In other words, it seems that not one single violent crime has been committed by more than 37,000 persons released early to home confinement under the CARES Act authority.  This is an amazing reality to be robustly celebrated, in part because it reveals that our federal system can effectively identify low-risk offenders who can be released early at essentially no risk to public safety.  

This great new Inquest piece by Jessica Morton & Samara Spence, titled "Home Rule: In weighing the future of thousands placed on home confinement during the pandemic, the government should prioritize where they are now: in their communities," places these data in another bit of telling context:

BOP’s own numbers show that people placed on home confinement pursuant to the CARES Act do not need to be returned to prison to prevent them from committing crimes. According to BOP data, only 9 of the 4,879 people placed on home confinement under the CARES Act — that is, less than two-tenths of a percent — have been reincarcerated for new criminal conduct.  By way of comparison, more than 100 BOP employees have been arrested, convicted of, or sentenced for crimes since the beginning of 2019. Given that BOP has 36,739 employees, BOP employees have a 1.5 times higher rate of alleged criminal conduct than the people the agency supervises on CARES Act home confinement, over a roughly similar period.

This Inquest piece should be read in full because it has a number of additional great points beyond the remarkable reality that BOP employees are apparently more of a public safety threat than the CARES home confinement cohort.  But the broader point is that federal experience over the last two years shows that is is possible to decarcerate a certain prison population without posing any real threats to public safety; indeed, done the right way and at the right time it may be possible to have more freedom and less crime.  That is in part the premise driving various elements of the FIRST STEP Act, and the CARES home confinement cohort has, in essense, demonstrated "proof of concept."

Of course, home confinement release with constant risk of reconfinement during a pandemic is not "normal" in any respect and so I do not think it fair to try to extrapolate too far from these encouraging recidivism data.  Nevertheless, whether a fan or a foe of modern criminal justice reform efforts, the impressively good behavior of the CARES home confinement cohort should be something that everyone can celebrate.

February 7, 2022 at 03:30 PM | Permalink


Yep, let’s celebrate this. It’s nice when people obey the law.

Interesting, Doug, that you have no comment about Loudoun County school administrators wanting to saddle kids with an arrest record for wearing a mask in school.

Posted by: Federalist | Feb 9, 2022 10:47:26 AM

Not aware of story, federalist, please link.

Posted by: Doug B. | Feb 9, 2022 12:47:35 PM

I found the following story in the NY Post. There appear to be differing accounts of what's actually going on. The security officer's leaked email memo seems to me to be pretty aggressive.


In related news, the Virginia Senate just passed a bill essentially codifying the Governor's statewide "parents-get-to-choose" order. Since the lower Virginia House (the House of Delegates) in controlled by Rs, I would expect this bill to become law very shortly.

The idea that one might even consider arresting a child for not wearing a mask, or anything like that, strikes me as just as preposterous as the idea of putting a 9 year-old on the sex registry.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 9, 2022 1:59:37 PM

Here is a story from a few years ago about hundreds of kids under 10 getting arrested in Florida schools: https://www.abcactionnews.com/news/local-news/i-team-investigates/kids-treated-as-criminals-hundreds-of-young-florida-children-arrested-within-the-last-two-years

Have you asked Gov DeSantis about this, Federalist? I am pleased to hear you are now concerned about the overpolicing of kids. Hope you stay on this important beat!

Posted by: Doug B. | Feb 9, 2022 2:57:02 PM

Many, but not all states have a minimum age for arresting and charging a child (usually younger than 10 years old) with any crime. The idea is that young children's brains have not sufficiently developed to understand criminal actions and to form the intent (mens rea) to commit a crime. One of my favorite stories about this issue concerns a 9-year old who climbed over the console from the back seat to the driver's seat of her mother's SUV, which was parked, but with the engine running. The mother had gone into the Colorado Dept. of Public Safety to pay a traffic fine. The girl's 13-year old sister was in the passenger's seat of the car, but did nothing to stop her younger sister from putting the car in drive, and rolling it thru a brick wall! No one was injured. A police officer purported to arrest the 9-year old for driving without a driver's license and reckless driving. At arraignment, a Judge dismissed the charges and reminded the police officer that under Colorado law, no child younger than 10 can be charged and prosecuted for any offense. The entire idea of criminalizing a child's failure to wear a mask at school is just preposterous and overly zealous. This should be a school disciplinary matter, not a crime.

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Feb 10, 2022 8:49:09 AM

Jim Gormey --

What the cop should have done was console the nine year-old, who was very likely scared out of her wits, and go inside and give holy hell to the mother who didn't take the three-fifths of a second it required to turn off the damn engine.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 10, 2022 2:46:08 PM

The article from Murdoch-owned, local Fox News publication NY Post is deceptive.

Go to the actual document from the school security director, no one will be arrested for trespass without an arrest warrant issued by a magistrate.

The trespass seemingly occurring after a maskless student or parent is denied admission to the school building, but persists in entering or attempting to enter.

The media is so FUBAR right now. And people just suck it up.

You aren't supposed to agree with the news, ffs.

Posted by: Fat Bastard | Feb 15, 2022 10:35:55 PM

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