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Experts Hypothesize That Federal Judges May Rethink Sentencing in The Future After Dismaying Experiences with Bureau of Prisons During Pandemic


Experts have speculated that federal judges having to deal with the Federal Bureau of Prisons up close may permanently affect how they approach sentencing in the future, and while judges have limited control over the release of inmates, they have significant discretion when it comes to the length of incarceration. It will largely be left up to judges to take a common sense approach to tackling the issue of prison overpopulation, which presents a very ‘clear and present danger’ when it comes to inmates and those who work in the prisons. They could be the “saving grace” when it comes to reducing prison populations, and there is no question that, post-pandemic, they will re-think sentencing. The backlog that has built up in the courts and the motions currently filed just related to civil rights concerns, compassionate release, and pre-trial pre-sentencing release are vast and overwhelming, and could very well inspire a new kind of criminal justice reform.

What The CARES Act Provided to Inmates

The CARES Act, in part, allowed Attorney General Barr to direct the Bureau of Prisons to use Home Confinement as a means of allowing for social distancing within federal prisons in order to reduce inmate population and allow for inmates that are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 to be released. Because the Bureau already had a system in place allowing for certain individuals to serve out the rest of their sentence in Home Confinement, what the Act did was essentially allow it to expand its policy and extend the ability for individuals to be released into Home Confinement.

Federal Bureau of Prisons Promises Inmates Consideration of Home Confinement, Then Reneges

However, instead, the Bureau created a complicated, confusing list-based system, whereby a number of inmates who already had release plans, as well as those who had more than one year remaining, were notified that they would be considered for Home Confinement, and then were told, in late April, that they were no longer eligible because they had not served 50 percent of their sentence. This included those on the list seeking compassionate release due to their age and health.

In sum, it has become clear that, while the CARES Act provides the Bureau with the ability to send anyone home to Home Confinement no matter how long their sentence is, it is only prioritizing inmates who have served 50 percent of more of their sentence or who have 18 months or less remaining and have served 25 percent or more of their sentence, regardless of how vulnerable a given inmate is to COVID-19 due to their age and/or health.  As a result, people who were told that they were being released, who have not seen their families in over one month – many of whom have serious health conditions and are susceptible to COVID-19 – have now been told that they will not be going into Home Confinement or seeing their loved ones.

Strain Placed On Judicial System

And the inmates are not the only ones negatively affected by these actions: The judicial system has been overloaded with accompanying Compassionate Release motions that have wasted judges’ time, all when the Bureau could have simply released vulnerable inmates pursuant to its authority under the Act.  In addition, there are now questions surrounding whether there ever was a list to begin with.

If You Have Any Questions or Concerns, Contact Our Criminal Defense & Civil Rights Attorneys

If your civil rights have been violated in a federal prison and/or in association with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, contact one of our Orlando criminal defense attorneys at the Baez Law Firm today to find out how we can help.






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