News Release

Biden Administration Poised to Return Thousands to Federal Prison Following COVID-era Home Confinement

NACDL Calls on President Biden to Commute the Sentences of People Living in CARES Act Home Confinement

Washington, DC (July 20, 2021)More than 500,000 incarcerated individuals in federal, state, and local jails and prisons in the United States have been infected with COVID-19. During the crisis, Congress passed the CARES Act, expanding the availability of home confinement as an alternative to serving out one’s sentence in federal prison. Subsequently, thousands of individuals who met the Trump administration’s criteria were released to home confinement. The measure saved countless lives. Fewer than 1% of these individuals are reported to have violated the terms of their home confinement, and given that federal prison costs taxpayers nearly three times the cost of home confinement, the benefit to taxpayers is clear.

In the final days of the Trump administration, the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice issued a memorandum outlining that individuals released to home confinement pursuant to the CARES Act would have to return to prison to complete their sentences at such time as the national COVID emergency has ended. Rather than disavow this memo, President’s Biden’s legal team is reported to have taken the position set forth in the memo – that some 4,000 individuals on CARES Act home confinement will be required to return to federal prison one month after the emergency is declared over in order to serve the balance of their sentences.

“There is absolutely nothing standing in the way of President Biden commuting the sentences of the approximately 4,000 individuals in CARES Act home confinement,” said NACDL President Christopher W. Adams. “The President should act with all deliberate speed to ensure that these individuals are not removed from their homes and communities in the middle of their re-entry process. While granting clemency to these individuals by commuting their sentences won’t change the fact that the United States is the world’s leading incarcerator, it would be a powerful signal that the administration is prioritizing criminal legal system reform, second chances, and the importance of a robust executive clemency power.”

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Ivan Dominguez, NACDL Senior Director of Public Affairs and Communications, (202) 465-7662 or

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.