DOJ says inmates on home confinement can stay home, and out of prison

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department on Tuesday reversed its own legal opinion and said it would allow federal inmates released on home confinement because of the coronavirus pandemic to stay out of prison.

The decision announced by Attorney General Merrick Garland came after months of pressure on President Joe Biden from criminal justice groups, lawmakers and other advocates.

DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel said Tuesday that it did not “lightly depart from our precedents, and we have given the views expressed in our prior opinion careful and respectful consideration.”

In the final days of the Trump administration, DOJ said released inmates would have to return to prison at the end of the emergency period declared during the pandemic. Nearly 3,000 former inmates would have potentially been taken back to prison.

“Thousands of people on home confinement have reconnected with their families, have found gainful employment, and have followed the rules. In light of today’s Office of Legal Counsel opinion, I have directed that the Department engage in a rulemaking process to ensure that the Department lives up to the letter and the spirit of the CARES Act. We will exercise our authority so that those who have made rehabilitative progress and complied with the conditions of home confinement, and who in the interests of justice should be given an opportunity to continue transitioning back to society, are not unnecessarily returned to prison.” Attorney General Merrick B. Garland

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