WASHINGTON — Color Of Change and the American Civil Liberties Union today took out a full page ad in the Washington Post demanding President Biden deliver on his promise to cut the prison population in half.
At the start of the pandemic, thousands of people were released from prison to finish their sentences on home confinement, many of whom are elderly and immunocompromised.
Just last week, the administration indicated that it would expedite individual clemency petitions for some of the people released under the CARES Act, but only those that qualified under certain arbitrary indicators. Now, thousands are still at risk of being sent back to prison when the pandemic recedes if President Biden does not take immediate action. This would be the single largest act of incarceration in U.S. history. The ad urges people to sign the joint petition calling on President Biden to fulfill his promises and grant clemency to thousands immediately.
Click here to see the ad.
“Prisons are not humane and the pandemic has only worsened conditions, making prisons potentially deadly for all who reside within their walls. To send anyone back to prison is not just cruel and unusual; it directly contradicts the promises Biden made on the campaign trail.” said Scott Roberts, senior director, criminal justice + democracy campaigns at Color Of Change. “We’ve been doing this work to ensure that people, particularly Black people, who continue to be at high risk of contracting COVID-19 can safely stay at home and rebuild bonds with their loved ones. President Biden must act on this. To not, is a clear indication that this will not be the administration that will begin to undo decades of harm caused by mass incarceration.”
“We thank President Biden for beginning to consider the use of clemency to help people on CARES Act home confinement, but he must go further than his current plans and not needlessly exclude people from being granted clemency,” said Udi Ofer, deputy national political director of the ACLU. “President Biden committed to the ACLU that he would reduce the federal prison population once elected, yet the federal prison population today is larger than it was one year ago. It’s time for the president to fully meet his commitments and do so through the power of clemency. Forcing people who are already home with their families to go back to prison would be cruel and would make no one safer.”
The Biden administration has decided to review clemency applications on an individual basis for non-violent drug offenders under home confinement with less than four years left on their sentence. However, individuals under home confinement need clemency now. Currently, everyone in the program was already rigorously vetted by the Bureau of Prisons in order to be on home confinement and almost everyone released has since been thriving at home by reconnecting with their friends, families, and communities, and engaging in civic and professional life.
The ACLU has been putting pressure on the administration over the past few months on the issue, including launching a broadcast ad campaign, organizing days of action, hosting a press conference, and encouraging engagement by a broader set of actors, including clergy, to ramp up the pressure.