This is what the decision to allow those released to home confinement under the CARES Act to stay put means to me, Richard McDonald.
Yesterday’s memo from the Department of Justice stating that those released to home confinement under the CARES Act may not have to return to prison once the COVID-19 pandemic ends was a long-awaited piece of good news.
As one of the thousands of people on home confinement under the CARES Act, I am truly grateful for the clarification. I appreciate the fact that AG Garland listened to Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Cory Booker (D-NJ). Durbin and Booker both have been calling for this clarification for months.
I am especially grateful for the people at FAMM and the many other criminal justice reform advocates who worked tirelessly to keep the pressure on these officials to do the “right thing.”
When the announcement came down, Twitter went wild. People in the criminal justice reform arena celebrated in a frenzy. It felt like we had just won a war because these elected officials did the “right thing.”
The Biden Administration finally did the “right thing.” But it’s okay to want more.
But you know what? Was this really enough? Is doing the “right thing” where we stop? I don’t think so. Surely, we have won this battle. But we are still fighting. And I would argue that we are in the fight of our lives to win this war.
So, what is a major step in winning the war? Clemency. Pure and simple. Clemency would allow us to truly reintegrate into society without the unnecessary restrictions of home confinement.
Home confinement, in some ways, is more restrictive than prison. For example, in prison, I walked between six and seven miles per day. On home confinement, I can’t leave my home except to go to the grocery store.
Don’t get me wrong: I cannot put a price on being with my children after not seeing them for eight months. But there is a price to pay.
Home confinement creates problems with check-ins, employment, medical care and more.
I am supposed to call and check in twice a day. But most of the time, no one answers. I have called the halfway house and been hung up on numerous times. Then I receive a phone call accusing me of not checking in. Since then, I have resorted to taking screen shots of my call log on my home phone just to protect myself.
I have received threats about having to return to prison if I don’t comply with the rules. I have been denied gainful employment for reasons that are absolutely puzzling.
My healthcare has been completely botched by the halfway house. I was on four different blood pressure medicines in prison. I left prison with a 30-day supply. After my release, I requested a doctor’s appointment on the first day that I reported to the halfway house to make sure I could continue taking my blood pressure medicines. It took them 47 days to get me an appointment. After I got my appointment, I went to Walmart to pick up my four prescriptions. There, the Walmart employee told me that I would have to pay hundreds of dollars for them. Yet my medical care is supposed to be completely covered.
I reported the issue to my counselor at the halfway house. She fumbled my request completely. Then it took another 21 days for them to straighten it out. All in all, I was without my blood pressure medications for over 60 days. Luckily, I did not stroke out.
If I had clemency, I could actually rejoin society like I’m supposed to.
If I had clemency, I could work out. I could secure my own healthcare via HealthCare.gov. I could have secured my blood pressure medicines. Basically, I could live a healthier life with clemency.
As I have stated previously, I am grateful that we have clarification. But so much more that needs to be done.
We were subject to dangerous COVID-19 conditions while were in prison. And we are lucky to not be dead because of the careless management of COVID-19 protocols within the prison system.
I think we have earned the right to clemency given the unnecessary risks and mismanagement we experienced in prison and on home confinement. Let’s not settle for winning a battle. Let’s win the war.
This is what the Biden Administration’s decision to allow those of us released to home confinement under the CARES Act means to me, Richard McDonald. If you are like me and on home confinement under the CARES Act, Interrogating Justice and How to Justice want to hear about your experience and give you a chance to share.