Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D., N.J.) lamented the Biden administration’s decision to re-incarcerate thousands of federal convicts who were temporarily discharged during the pandemic to reduce COVID transmission in prison facilities. She claimed that the prisoners have proven to be valuable members of society during the break.
“The unanticipated reprieve brought on by Covid-19 proved it is possible to safely reduce the prison population. Meanwhile, these inmates have shown to be contributing members of society, improving the wellbeing of their families and communities,” the legislator noted.
The convicts are scheduled to return to jail as soon as the Biden administration ends the COVID-related national emergency.
“This is an extremely disappointing decision,” Watson Coleman wrote in a statement Wednesday. “It directly conflicts with President Biden’s commitments to criminal justice reform and the overall reduction of our prison population.”
The lawmaker cited the exorbitant cost of imprisoning criminals, which she alleged America does at a disproportionately higher rate than the rest of the world. She suggested that it is unfair to deploy crucial funds for incarceration rather than for social priorities such as poverty, homelessness, health insurance coverage, and veterans.
“Today’s decision by the Biden administration is a failure to address the overpopulation crisis in a way that does not require Congress or the Courts. In this respect, this action is both cruel and unnecessary,” she added.
According to Watson Coleman’s statement, President Biden’s action applies to approximately 4,000 non-violent inmates, who will be required to serve the remainder of their sentences once the pandemic comes to a close per a memo issued in the final days of the Trump administration.
The memo stipulated that federal Bureau of Prisons “must recall prisoners in home confinement to correctional facilities” once the national emergency order is lifted, according to Reuters. Biden has yet to reverse this Trump-era policy.
Former Attorney General William Barr directed the BOP to release non-violent federal inmates with certain qualifications into home confinement in March 2020 before Biden assumed office.