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March 15, 2023

With pandemic legally winding down, should Congress build in CARES Act success to greatly expand BOP home confinement authority?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this notable new Forbes piece by Walter Pavlo headlined "Bureau Of Prisons Sees End Of Cares Act Home Confinement, Some Prisoners Will Be Left Behind."  I recommend the full piece, and here are excerpts (with links from the original):

The CARES Act provided funding for the United States to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, but it provided the Federal Bureua of Prisons (BOP) a means to both reduce crowding in federal prisons and place some minimum security prisoners with underlying health conditions on home confinement to complete their sentences. Over 12,000 prisoners have successfully been transferred to home confinement under the CARES Act and few have violated the conditions that returned them to prison. The Office of Legal Counsel determined that BOP’s preexisting authorities did not require that prisoners in extended home confinement be returned en masse to correctional facilities when the emergency period ends. Now, the Biden Administration has called for the end of national emergency and public health emergency associated with the COVID-19 pandemic on May 11, 2023 and that will mean that some prisoners will not see the benefit of home confinement.

The Federal Register published a draft of the final rule to end CARES Act home confinement in June 2022.  Comments and the final rule itself are now at the White House and will soon be published. In the draft proposal, the Department of Justice indicated that the BOP would stop home confinement placements of prisoners 30 days after the emergency period ends, so mid-June 2023.

As the program sunsets, one would think the BOP is slowing transfer of some prisoners to home confinement under CARES Act, but not so. Randilee Giamusso, who works at the BOP’s Office of Public Affairs gave a statement that, “The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has not made efforts to slow CARES Act home confinement placements as the end of the CARES Act approaches. We have issued no guidance regarding this matter.”  That is welcome news to prisoners who meet the eligibility requirements for CARES Act placement.

Many are also hoping that the DOJ extends the 30 days after the end of CARES Act to something that takes into consideration the success of the program and the conditions of prison.  Maureen Baird, retired BOP Warden, told me in an interview, “Prisons are communal settings where contagion is always a concern.  I think the BOP has gone to great measures to try to avoid that contagion and one of the most successful measures has been CARES Act home confinement.”...

The CARES Act demonstrated that a select group of prisoners could be identified and successfully placed in community settings for an extended portion of their sentence.  There are currently prisoners on CARES Act who still have over 5 years remaining on their prison term who are under strict terms of home confinement and subject to being returned to an institution in the event of failing to live up to those terms.

Though it makes sense to wind down the pandemic-driven authority to transfer certain persons from federal prison to home confinement, Congress and the US Sentencing Commission and the Justice Department should carefully study the the apparent success of this CARES Act program and consider ways to give BOP broader authority in non-pandemic times to move low-risk prisoners into home confinement. As highlighted by some posts below about the CARES Act, it seems that great use of home confinement might help reduce recidivism, save taxpayer money, facilitate greater reentry success for offenders and advance other important goals. Of course, home confinement needs to uses efficiently and effectively, though if we can do that during a pandemic, I would hope we can also do it at other times.

Some prior related posts:

March 15, 2023 at 02:44 PM | Permalink


I think the CARES act when it refers to inmates is a great act and should continue. Especially since there is no Parole in federal system. It gives NON-VIOLENT people to prove they are willing to change with their families and under supervision. It creates jobs and save the taxpayers money but the most important thing? Gives hope and inspires people to make changes...Instead of being a country of no mercy for people who should be in rehab and education programs outside of prison, at least do this...

Posted by: Randy Cowan | Mar 15, 2023 3:31:21 PM

The left’s motto: “Never let a crisis go to waste.”

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Mar 16, 2023 1:23:03 AM

Inmates got a special break they did nothing to earn because of a once-in-a-hundred-years pandemic. The pandemic has ended, and the unique reason for that break ended with it. They were serving legal sentences their criminal behavior earned them. The reason those sentences were interrupted has gone. This is not that hard.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 16, 2023 2:20:31 AM

If home-confinement is done, the rules need to be enforced sternly.

Bill, if we could trust decisionmakers, I might be willing to take into consideration home-confinement conduct to let them remain. But we don't live in that world.

Posted by: federalist | Mar 16, 2023 8:24:40 AM

The home confinement for sure needs to continue and expand. From what I have seen they have not utilized it enough. This tool becomes especially important with the ageing population, lack of rehabilitative services and complete lack of health care within the BOP. And let us not forget the abuses within the BOP.

Posted by: Mp | Mar 16, 2023 3:44:28 PM

I am a beneficiary of the cares, Covid home, confinement, release, act, and at the present time have served approximately three years of home confinement with no incidents and no recidivism issues. At the present time I am in court seeking a reduction in sentence based on 3553 standards. Also, I am using tools available to me through the first step act, and the fair sentencing act which authorized the revised criteria of the safety valve. I have also attempted to use the rule 782 all drug reduction criteria, but have been denied by my judge Donald M Middlebrooks, who resides in the Southern District of Florida. We are continuing the fight in the District Court at the present time and hope to get a fair decision from an extremely biased judge, which seems to be impossible. We are moving for his recusal from the case and hope to find some remedy with another district judge. This may not apply to your blog, but it isn’t important notation to the problems faced by prisoners in the court system. Sincerely, Charlies O’Neil.

Posted by: Charles Oneil | Oct 11, 2023 5:16:55 AM

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