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Attorney General William Barr instructed the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to move non-violent prisoners who are at risk of contracting coronavirus leave penitentiary establishments and allow them to serve their sentence in house arrest.
“Many detainees will be safer in BOP establishments where the population is controlled and where there is rapid access to doctors and medical care,” Barr wrote in a two-page note to the BOP on Thursday. “But for some eligible inmates, home confinement may be more effective in protecting their health.”
Barr ordered the office to prioritize home confinement for inmates in minimum and minimum security institutions that pose no threat to the safety of the community and have a low probability of reoffending.
Criminals who have committed violent crimes or sex offenses are not eligible for home confinement.
The medical director of the BOP was responsible for assessing the risk factor of an inmate to contracting COVID-19, including exposures to coronaviruses in the particular prison establishment as well as the medical history and age of each detained.
Prisoners who are placed in home care should be quarantined for 14 days before their release from prison to protect the public.
“We cannot take any risk of transferring detainees to house arrest, which will contribute to the spread of COVID-19,” Barr wrote.
Prisoners in some of the country’s most populous prisons – including Rikers Island in New York and California State Prison in California – have tested positive for COVID-19 and the risk of spread in prisons is troublesome due to the close proximity between them and BOP staff.