DOJ announces it won't return criminals on home confinement to prison after COVID-19

The Office of Legal Counsel was 'asked to consider' a previous Trump-era rule that would have returned those on house arrest to prison

The Justice Department on Tuesday announced that it will not make individuals placed on house arrest during COVID-19 return to prison once the pandemic is over.

The Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) on Tuesday said that after being "asked to consider" a previous Trump-era rule requiring the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to recall all prisoners placed on home confinement once the COVID-19 emergency ended, it has decided to "give the Bureau discretion to permit prisoners in extended home confinement to remain there."

Attorney General Merrick Garland meets with law enforcement leadership and Illinois-area Strike Force Teams at the U.S. Attorney's Office on July 23, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. (Samuel Corum-Pool/Getty Images)

Attorney General Merrick Garland meets with law enforcement leadership and Illinois-area Strike Force Teams at the U.S. Attorney's Office on July 23, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. (Samuel Corum-Pool/Getty Images)

"Thousands of people on home confinement have reconnected with their families, have found gainful employment, and have followed the rules," Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement. "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."

The BOP has "significantly increased its placement of offenders on home confinement," according to its website.

The BOP currently has nearly 8,000 inmates on home confinement, and the total number of inmates placed on home confinement between March 2020 and the present is more than 36,000, including those who have completed their sentences.

The Justice Action Network, an organization dedicated to reforming the U.S. criminal justice system, praised the move in a Tuesday statement, with president and executive director Holly Harris calling it a "Christmas miracle."

The Justice Action Network said the policy change came after Biden administration officials met with representatives from their organization, as well as the ACLU, Americans for Tax Reform, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, R Street, the Sentencing Project and the Justice Roundtable on Nov. 30.

"I was thrilled to be informed by Attorney General Garland, and to thank him for giving these families such an incredible gift," Harris said. "This is an amazing moment for all of the men and women who shared their stories and the advocates who spent the last ten months pushing for this policy change."

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House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler applauded the move, calling it "the right thing to do for these individuals, their families, and their communities."