Thousands of people in the U.S. have been released from prison during the COVID-19 pandemic. Government officials decided that these people posed no danger to public safety. Now that the pandemic is supposedly coming to an end, the government wants to send these people back to prison. For months, family members, organizations and others have called on the Biden Administration to #KeepThemHome. Now lawmakers from Maryland are calling on the administration to #KeepThemHome, too.
Maryland lawmakers called on the Biden Administration to #KeepThemHome.
Last week, U.S. Senators Chris Ban Hollen and Ben Cardin and U.S. Representatives Kweisi Mfume, Dutch Ruppersberger, and John Sarbanes wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and U.S. Bureau of Prisons Director Michael Carvajal. In the letter, the Maryland politicians urged Garland to stop the plan to send everyone release under the CARES Act back to prison. In other words, the Maryland lawmakers are calling on the Biden Administration to #KeepThemHome.
As the lawmakers pointed out, everyone who was released was determined by the government to be safe to release. Locking up people that the government believes are safe “does not serve the public interest,” they wrote. The lawmakers also pointed out that releasing people who don’t pose a public-safety risk saves a lot of taxpayer money. If the public is safe and can save money, why wouldn’t the government choose that path?
Officials plan to send everyone back except those with nonviolent drug offenses whose sentences are almost over.
The answer to that question seems obvious. Yet, as of now, the government is on track to send almost everyone released under the CARES Act back to prison. Recent reports suggest that the Biden Administration will instead ask only those serving time for nonviolent drug offenses with less than four years left on their sentence to seek a commutation.
This limit sounds good on paper. It’s always easy for politicians to give favorable treatment to people in the “nonviolent drug offender” category. But the government didn’t release anyone until they determined that the person did not present a danger to the public. That determination — whether they are safe to release — is much more relevant than the details of their offense or the time left on their sentence.
Family members, organizations and these Maryland lawmakers get it: We need to #KeepThemHome. But the Biden Administration doesn’t have a lot of time left to do the right thing.