July 20, 2021

Rep. Watson Coleman Expresses Disappointment with Biden Administration Decision to Return To Prison Inmates on Home Confinement

Today, Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12) issued a statement following reporting that the Biden administration has approved the return of thousands of federal convicts who were previously released to home confinement to reduce the spread of Covid-19 after the official state of emergency ends. The decision upholds a last-minute Trump administration memo ordering those released back to prison. 

“This is an extremely disappointing decision,” said Watson Coleman. “It directly conflicts with President Biden’s commitments to criminal justice reform and the overall reduction of our prison population. In order to accomplish those goals we have to prioritize alternatives to incarceration and replace it with other strategies wherever possible. 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 United States incarcerates more people than any other country, negatively impacting our moral standing in the world. It is a sign of a deeply unhealthy society to continue to spend tens of billions of dollars a year on incarceration while over 10 million children live in poverty, 1.4 million veterans are at risk of homelessness, and nearly 30 million Americans are underinsured. 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.” 

On April 8th and May 27th of this year Congresswoman Watson Coleman sent bipartisan letters to President Biden and Attorney General Garland respectively, calling on them to officially rescind the Trump era memo noting: 

…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 decision of the Biden administration applies to about 4,000 nonviolent inmates.