How Has the COVID-19 Pandemic Affected Federal Prisoners?

 Posted on November 23,2021 in Criminal Law

hartford federal crimes defense lawyerFor nearly two years, people throughout the United States have been forced to deal with drastic changes to their lives due to the threat of COVID-19. People in prison are among the most seriously affected, and many have struggled to maintain their safety when being confined in close quarters alongside others and with limited access to medical care. While some recent changes to laws and policies have provided prisoners with benefits that have helped them remain safe, many prisoners who have been convicted of federal crimes are in a state of legal limbo due to ineffective implementation of policies and potential changes once the pandemic ends. 

Issues With Time Credits and Home Detention

The FIRST STEP Act, which was passed by Congress in 2018, provided many benefits for federal prisoners, and one key policy change involved the ability for prisoners to earn time credits and reduce their sentences by participating in rehabilitation programs. The law also included provisions encouraging prisoners to participate in these programs by offering incentives such as increased phone privileges, more visitation time with family members, and transfers to prisons that are closer to their homes and families.

Unfortunately, many of these policies have not been put in place due to negotiations between the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and the labor union that represents prison workers. Any changes in prison policies must be negotiated with the union, but these negotiations have not been held for more than 20 months because the BOP has stated that they must be completed remotely, while the union is insisting on in-person meetings. Due to this delay, around 60,000 federal inmates who would able to earn time credits have not been able to participate in these programs.

During the pandemic, some federal prisoners have benefited through the use of home detention. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020 has allowed non-violent offenders who meet certain criteria to serve their sentences while at home. This program has been very successful, allowing inmates to reintegrate into society, rebuild family relationships, and pursue education and employment. Of the more than 28,000 prisoners who have been placed on home detention, less than 1 percent have violated the terms of confinement, and only one has committed a new criminal offense. Unfortunately, this program will end once the government determines that the pandemic is no longer a national emergency, and many of these inmates may be forced to return to prison to serve the remainder of their sentences.

Contact Our Hartford Federal Crimes Defense Lawyer

At Woolf Law Firm, LLC, we provide representation for those who have been charged with federal crimes, and we can also help those who are serving federal sentences determine their options for participating in programs that will allow them to reduce their sentences or receive home detention. To set up a free consultation and learn how we can help with your case, contact our Connecticut federal criminal defense attorney at 860-290-8690.


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