July 14, 2022

Rep. Watson Coleman Calls on Justice Department to Address Delay in Release of Nonviolent Incarcerated Americans

Today, Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12) led a group of 12 Democratic Members of Congress in a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland calling for the Justice Department to immediately address delays in the process of releasing thousands of Americans incarcerated for nonviolent offenses.


Under the First Step Act of 2018, federal nonviolent inmates are eligible for early release. This legislation addresses the United States’ mass incarceration problem by decreasing the federal prison population, reforming sentencing laws, and supporting formerly incarcerated individuals as they transition back into society. However, despite the law being in place for over three years, bureaucratic delays have hindered its effective implementation.


The letter reads in part:


We are aware of the final rule that the Justice Department issued in January on how incarcerated individuals can earn time credits and how it can be calculated as part of the process of an earlier release. Individuals and advocates have raised concerns that these time credits are not being properly applied. Consequently, these individuals deemed “minimal or low risk” and participating in this program for early release are finding their release dates delayed significantly.


In addition to calling on the Justice Department to address delays in the release of nonviolent inmates, the letter asked the Department to provide reports to Congress on the implementation of the First Step Act and to resolve issues currently facing the Bureau of Prisons.

The letter was signed by Reps. Karen Bass (CA-37), Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick (FL-20), Madeleine Dean (PA-04), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Mondaire Jones (NY-17), Gwen S. Moore (WI-04), Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Bennie Thompson (MS-02), and David Trone (MD-06).

You can read the full letter here.