White House Offers Clemency for Drug Offenders on Home Confinement, but Advocates Say Plan Will Still Send Thousands Back to Prison
President Joe Biden’s White House has started sending out clemency applications to thousands of federal drug offenders currently on home confinement due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Politico reported on Monday, but criminal justice advocates say the plan would still send thousands of offenders back to prison after they started putting their lives together again.
The federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) released more than 20,000 inmates on home confinement last year under pandemic legislation called the CARES Act, but since then, it’s been an open question of if and when they would have to return to prison after the pandemic ends. The New York Times first reported last month that the Biden administration, under pressure from advocates, was considering offering clemency to nonviolent federal drug offenders released to home confinement with four years or less remaining on their sentences.
Lawmakers, advocacy groups, and families of incarcerated people have been pressing the Biden administration for months to not send offenders on home confinement back to federal prison, saying it would be unnecessarily cruel to people who’ve been home for nearly a year or more without incident. However, while advocates applauded the news of the administration’s clemency effort, they say the White House’s plan still leaves behind thousands of those on home confinement, all of whom were already vetted for release by the BOP.
“We are glad the president is showing signs that he might use his clemency authority to keep some people released during the pandemic home,” Kevin Ring, president of FAMM, said in a press release. “But we remain deeply disturbed that the administration is using arbitrary criteria to decide whom to separate from their families.”
David McMaster, a white-collar offender released from federal prison to home confinement nine months ago, says returning to prison to finish the roughly five years remaining on his sentence would be “devastating” for him and his family. He doesn’t know if his marriage of 32 years will survive.
“Can I go back and do additional time? Of course, I do it through strength and my faith, and I know I can do that,” McMaster says. “Can my family handle it? I don’t know. I don’t t
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