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Released Federal Prisoners Ordered Back to Custody For Minor Issues

Some federal defendants are charging that people released from prison because of COVID-19 are being sent back over minor infractions, such as not picking up a call from staffers overseeing their home confinement. The Bureau of Prisons is facing scrutiny for re-incarcerating people in home confinement over minor offenses. During the pandemic, more than 43,000 people were released from prison to home confinement during the COVID-19 pandemic, USA Today reports. About 50,000 federal inmates recovered from coronavirus and around 300 died. The CARES ACT granted then-Attorney General Bill Barr the option to broaden the use of home confinement, which had previously been used only at the very end of a person's sentence.


Last year, more than 3,000 people were released to CARES ACT home confinement, says the Prison Policy Initiative. Those released to home confinement must keep the prison bureau updated on their whereabouts. Some 407 people had their home confinement revoked. Of those, 212 were returned due to misconduct in violation of program rules, such as alcohol use and drug use; 69 were returned after an escape, such as an unauthorized absence from custody; and 11 were for new criminal conduct and other violations. The prison bureau allows people to have "any issue related to their incarceration formally reviewed by high-level" officials. Defendants who have filed suit say they were not given hearings, written notice or the ability to present evidence. They said pleas for review were ignored and that the cumbersome, months-long process can lead to collateral damage, such as a child going back into foster care while the parent is in prison.