By Attorney Bradley Fuller
On May 11, 2023, the COVID-19 National Emergency, first declared by President Donald Trump in the spring of 2020, will come to an end. The conclusion of this emergency period is particularly relevant to people incarcerated in federal facilities seeking release from prison under a special provision of the CARES Act.
This sweeping legislation was enacted by Congress in March of 2020 as part of a comprehensive attempt to battle the spread and impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. Prison populations are particularly vulnerable to contagious disease outbreaks. As such, section 12003(b)(2) of the CARES Act expanded the Bureau of Prison's authority to place federally incarcerated people in home confinement during the statute's “covered emergency period.” To date, several thousand people have been moved out of federal incarceration facilities and placed on what is commonly called “house arrest” or “home confinement.” The program has been extremely successful as COVID transmissions were greatly reduced, and very few people violated the terms of their home confinement.
Only certain incarcerated people are deemed eligible for release under the program. The Bureau of Prisons looks at several factors when determining whether to grant home confinement.
The person's age and vulnerability to respiratory disease is a major variable. Older and elderly incarcerated people, who are typically more prone to illness, are given priority when possible. History of conduct while incarcerated also plays a major role in the determination process. People who have participated in violent incidents while incarcerated, who have failed to follow the basic rules of the federal prison, and who have known gang affiliations are less likely to be released.
Incarcerated people who can present the Bureau with a solid, comprehensive, and verifiable re-entry plan are looked upon favorably. The Bureau feels far more comfortable placing someone on home confinement if that person has worked hard to set themselves up for success upon reintegrating into the outside world. For instance, presenting to the Bureau a strong support network at home and a plan to reduce the likelihood of substance abuse relapse are both ways to demonstrate someone is likely to be successful with the home confinement program.
Of course, ensuring community safety is the top priority. People with violent records and tendencies are typically excluded from consideration. Armed habitual criminals and sex offenders are considered too great a danger to society to be placed on house arrest.
If someone incarcerated federally wishes to be considered for release on home confinement under the CARES Act, he or she must first make an administrative request with his or her case manager and prison warden. Once this written request is made, the warden has 30 days to respond. If the warden does not grant release or set a date for release, an appeal may be filed to the sentencing judge for relief. The request must be that the judge modify (not reduce) the sentence to allow the balance of their remaining time on home confinement.
If home confinement is granted, a strict fourteen-day quarantine is imposed upon release to prevent transmission from the facility to the community.
If home confinement is denied, a request to reconsider can be filed if circumstances change, such as a newly discovered comorbidity or other vulnerability to COVID-19.
Unless the national emergency is extended by President Joe Biden, federal release to home confinement under the CARES Act will end on June 20, 2023. Therefore, if you or someone you know is currently incarcerated and has questions or concerns about the end of home confinement for federal inmates under the CARES Act, CTM Legal Group can help. Please contact our office by calling 312-818-6700, and we will assist in answering your questions pertaining to this issue.