Politics

ACLU pressures Joe Biden to keep convicts on home confinement out of prison due to pandemic


The American Civil Liberties Union is mounting a six-figure ad campaign to pressure President Biden to prevent prisoners on home confinement from returning to federal prisons when the COVID-19 pandemic winds down.

A coronavirus relief package passed last year, the CARES Act, enabled the transfer of thousands of prisoners to home confinement for the duration of the national emergency declared over the pandemic. The law allows for the home confinement period to last up to 30 days after the end of the national emergency declaration for the pandemic.

They are urging Mr. Biden to use the president’s clemency power to keep an estimated 4,000 convicts out of the federal prisons.

“Forcing thousands of people to go back to prison would be cruel, legally unnecessary, would not make us safer, and would cost taxpayers millions of dollars,” Udi Ofer, director of ACLU’s justice division, said in a statement. “It’s time for President Biden to grant clemency to these men and women and keep them home.”

The spots feature Jesse Rodriguez, a Texas prisoner sent home in July who the ad says completed eight years of a 14-year prison sentence for a drug conviction.

“I’m going to try to make the best out of every day I have out here,” said Mr. Rodriguez in the ad featuring him and his family and working a new job. “President Biden, please don’t separate me from my family.”

The ACLU argued that fewer than 1% of prisoners put on home confinement had violated the terms of their release, and it was time for Mr. Biden to follow through on lowering the incarceration rate and size of the federal prison population that he campaigned on as a presidential candidate.

A Justice Department memo issued in January before Mr. Biden took office noted that the Federal Bureau of Prisons would recall prisoners once the CARES Act authority expired.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The ACLU and its partners will start running ads on Sunday. The ads will run nationwide on CNN and MSNBC and air in the Delaware and Philadelphia media markets during the Labor Day holiday, according to the ACLU.

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