Congresswoman Watson Coleman Leads Bipartisan Letter Calling on Attorney General Garland to Reverse Justice Department Legal Memo Set to Return Prisoners on Home Confinement to Prison

Memo in question would force thousands of non-violent offenders on home confinement to return to prison

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Washington, DC, May 27, 2021 | comments

Today, Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), along with a bipartisan group of 29 members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland urging him to reverse a legal memo issued in the waning days of the Trump administration that would require thousands of people on home confinement to return to federal prison.

In March 2020, Congress passed the CARES Act, which authorized the Attorney General to give people in federal prison extended home confinement in order to save lives and mitigate the spread of COVID-19. These individuals were told they would not have to return to prison unless they violated the terms of their supervision. On January 15, 2021, however, the Trump Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) issued a legal memo that said that the CARES Act requires people on home confinement to return to prison.  

The bipartisan letter reads, in part:  

The vast majority of those people on home confinement today have reunited with their families and are working and contributing to society. To continue with the previous administration’s OLC opinion will upend what has been a very successful means of reducing infection rates in federal prisons. This is on top of the fact that these individuals were not told they would have to return to prison, potentially causing more harm than good to all involved.

"The CARES Act took the appropriate steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 by directing thousands of non-violent prisoners to home confinement," said Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12). "Since then, these individuals have not only shown that they can be contributing members of society, they've laid bare the fact that we are imprisoning far too many people in this country. Attorney General Garland should reverse the Justice Department Memo and give thousands of families the peace of mind of knowing their loved ones will not be taken away from them." 

The letter was signed by Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Bennie Thompson (MS-2), Hakeem Jeffries (NY-8), Ritchie Torres (NY-15), Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-At Large), Henry C. Johnson (GA-4), Jim Cooper (TN-5), Mondaire Jones (NY-17), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Andre Carson (IN-7), Mark Pocan (WI-2), Pramila Jayapal (WA-7), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Ted Deutch (FL-22), Jan Schakowsky (IL-9), Emanuel Cleaver (MO-5), Karen Bass (CA-37), Nydia M. Velazquez (NY-7), Ayanna Pressley (MA-7), David Trone (MD-6), David N. Cicilline (RI-1), Kelly Armstrong (ND-At Large), Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-12), Danny K. Davis (IL-7), David E. Price (NC-4), Frederica S. Wilson (FL-24), and Cori Bush (MO-1).

Click here to read the letter in full. 

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