With COVID-19 cases on the rise, the Bureau Of Prisons is slowly moving inmates under the CARES Act
With COVID-19 cases on the rise, the Bureau Of Prisons is slowly moving inmates under the CARES Act

With COVID-19 cases on the rise, the Bureau Of Prisons is slowly moving inmates under the CARES Act

Over 7,000 minimum security prisoners have been transferred from federal prisons to home prisons since the beginning of the pandemic under the CARES Act. A provision under the CARES Act allowed then-Attorney General William Barr to instruct the Federal Bureau of Prisons to put in place a mechanism to move minimum security prisoners to home detention to complete their sentence. This meant that those susceptible to COVID-19 with underlying health factors could isolate themselves at home instead of being imprisoned in highly contagious prisons. The measures would also reduce the number of prisons to provide a small distance between the prisoners.

Some of these inmates in the home have years left of their sentence, and the Office of Legal Counsel issued an order in December 2021 to allow these inmates to remain there until the end of the sentence … regardless of whether COVID-19 still exists.

COVID-19 still exists and there seems to be one variant after another. Almost half of the BOP institutions operate at almost normal pre-pandemic levels. Even with that, inmates who have served a certain percentage of their sentence, and who also have underlying health conditions, are still being treated for home detention. However, the releases of the CARES Act have declined because the number of cases in prisons has decreased and staff are also stressed about treating prisoners because they are dealing with the implementation of the First Step Act (FSA).

On January 19, 2022, the Federal Register published the final rule on the FSA, which was signed into law in December 2018. These final rules clarified the law for the BOP and allowed them to try to recalculate new sentences for thousands of prisoners. Many of these prisoners qualified for FSA credits, reducing their sentence by one year. This led to many prisoners being told to pack their suitcases as they were going home much faster than expected. It has also led to some anxiety in the prisons as the prisoners want their new release dates. Prisoners who have health problems and could be transferred under the CARES law are now being pushed to the back of the queue, so that overburdened caseworkers can provide for thousands of prisoners who will be transferred to custody after their release in the near future. months.

A prisoner is being held at FCI Milan, a low-security prison that was approved under the CARES Act and should have been transferred to the home with confidence two weeks ago. Jason Marquis Smith, an African-American, is serving a 20-month prison sentence for bankruptcy fraud. He surrendered in January 2021 and is due to be released from custody on November 22, 2022. However, he got COVID-19 and was, according to his family, very ill when he lost almost 100 lbs. due to his illness. Smith suffers from hypertension and, like other prisoners, has literally had to beg for compassion to be moved to a home jail. According to papers I have reviewed from the family, he has been expected to arrive at a halfway house in Baltimore, MD and then quickly treated for home detention. However, Smith is still sitting in FCI Milan waiting for paperwork, with BOP currently operating the facility at level three operations, an indication of COVID outbreaks at the institution and in the immediate community.

I spoke to Smith’s fiancée, Melissa Malott, who told me, “I want our children to see him again, and I want him to be alive when they do.

While caseworkers struggling to keep up with the growing demands of their jobs health care in BOP has also been under stress. It’s the perfect storm of poor underlying health for a prisoner combined with a lack of BOP staff and poor health care putting people like Smith to fight for their lives as much as their freedom.

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