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Many Federal Inmates Released During Pandemic Imprisoned Again

Eva Cardoza returned from the federal correctional institution in Danbury, Ct., to live through the pandemic at home. Her fiancé Eric Alvarez has heart trouble and struggled to take care of his four kids and Cardoza’s daughter while she was away. When she returned, Cardoza helped relieved some of the burden. Cardoza is among more than 11,000 people who have been released from federal prison to ride out the pandemic at home, often with families and loved ones. In June 2021, Alvarez and Cardoza took a 90-minute cab ride into the Bronx, so she could meet with staffers in charge of her supervision. Cardoza, who had tested positive for marijuana, never came out custody. She has now been back at Danbury for 14 months, not given a chance to explain or challenge the positive drug test, reports NPR.

The federal Bureau of Prisons says that 442 people who were released during the pandemic have now returned to prison. Out of 11,000, only 17 people committed new crimes, mostly drug related ones, while they were out. More than half of those released, some 230 people including Cardoza, were sent back for alleged alcohol or drug use. Other cases involved technical violations. Kevin Ring of FAMM, formerly Families Against Mandatory Minimums, said that in the past, somebody who violated their terms of home confinement was sent to a halfway house or prison only for a month or two. Some of the people released under the the federal pandemic legislation called the Cares Act have years remaining on their prison terms. Most of the monitoring is done by private contractors for people on home confinements, said Quinnipiac University School of Law Prof. Sarah Russell, often leaving room for misunderstandings. Russell said that's all the more reason to ensure due-process rights for people at risk of being sent back, including the opportunity to see the evidence against them and to have a hearing before a neutral arbiter. More lawsuits from people returned to prison are expected. The Bureau of Prisons is considering a new federal rule to make the process clearer.


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