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Commentary

Attorney General Barr Memo Excludes Release of Registrants

[ACSOL]

It’s just come to my attention that Attorney General Barr recently issued a memorandum purporting to address the problem of COVID-19 for federal prisons, by recommending consideration of release from federal prison to home confinement. In the federal system there is a regular program allowing many prisoners to be released near the end of their sentence to “halfway houses”, which are run by private contractors. Many in halfway houses are then released fairly quickly from those settings to home confinement, especially if they have found employment.  While in home confinement, they are supervised by the halfway house staff.  Some with employment are released directly to home confinement after checking in with their assigned halfway house.

Barr’s memo suggests that additional prisoners in low and medium security federal prisons be given priority for this program. Virtually all those incarcerated in a federal prison for a sex offense are housed in low or medium security prisoners because their scores on the relevant federal tests lead to a low violence rating. The feds of course have no jurisdiction over ordinary street crimes, such as rape or sexual assault, unless they are committed in a national park or an Indian reservation. So it’s not surprising that most persons in a federal prison for a “sex offense” are there for possession of child pornography. It’s a large group because about 1/3 of all prosecutions, nationally, for possession of CP are federal. They are overwhelmingly placed in low security prisons because they are disproportionately first offenders with no criminal history. Barr’s memo, however, goes on to say that “Some offenses, such as sex offenses, will render an inmate ineligible for home detention”.

Given the particularly low re-offense probability of individuals in federal prisons for sexual offenses, this is an indefensible statement. And as it happens, it is also an incorrect statement of federal law and policy, at least as it stood a few years ago when I last had occasion to become involved in this. There is no bar on home confinement for persons convicted of a sexual offense. It was the case that some federally contracted halfway houses refused to accept anyone required to register, but others did. In some places, such as Guam, that had no halfway houses in the district, federal prisoners including CP offenders were released to home confinement to be supervised by federal parole officers.

Not surprisingly, there are also other problems with Barr’s memo, and some concerns have been expressed by the chair of the House Judiciary committee in a statement it released today. See https://judiciary.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=2893.  But that statement does not note this problem.

— By ACSOL Board Member Ira Ellman, Distinguished Affiliated Scholar, Center for the Study of Law and Society, University of California, Berkeley

 

Join the discussion

  1. New Person

    What a shame. This is the macro version of Prop 57 in California.

    Every entity treats us like lepers and second class citizens. The systematic enforcement to mistreat US citizens as second class citizens goes beyond the regulatory scheme for the Police Dept to find us in specific line call-ups.

    People are talking about how unconstitutional it is to prevent free movement, yet it is okay to impose that to people who are no longer under custody?

  2. Eric

    This has gone to far. This is just abuse. It is singling out a specified group of people and unjustly punishing them without reason, without justice. It is too much. Something must change.

  3. w

    Events are quickly reaching a tipping point. The ugly system that they’ve quietly kept under wraps is being exposed to a world they didn’t think about. When it’s no longer quiet in the neighborhood and business as usual people start seeing the faults behind the illusion.

  4. E

    Here’s another example of blatant discrimination, Janice: the SBA’s Paycheck protection program application SPECIFICALLY CALLS OUT REGISTRANTS/prior convictions against minors. How is this even possible? In an emergency like this, the businesses owned or run by someone convicted of an offense against a minor are NOT worth protecting… and neither are their employees, I guess. And they had the time to include this knife in the back, in the midst of rushing everything else? Is there a memo for federal employees now saying, “Any form you create better include calling out registrants and other lepers”? CRAZY.

    https://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/2020-03/Borrower%20Paycheck%20Protection%20Program%20Application.pdf

    • Ghost

      This is insane! So what if you was an employee and was laid off with that offense, are they not eligible for unemployment. What about those on parole and get a job where the employer gets a tax break for hiring you. Are they going to be denied when they go to file the business taxes But by Damn they take are money. If they don’t want to give us help in situations like this then we shouldn’t have to pay taxes. We are not getting any representation.

  5. Ghost

    I’m not sure what Mr Barr said since I have not seen his recommendation. But one eerily thing comes to mind. When I was incarcerated, we had talked about what was there policy of DOC if marshal law was ever declared. We were told by “our governing authority” that prisoners would be eliminated. I my self wondered how they would let out those who had small crimes that didn’t need to be “eliminated”. Those in low level prisons and not violent. Now I see how they are going to do this. And if this is the case and Barr has said not to release those with sex “crimes” not only are we deemed lepers of society but also those who should be eliminated.

  6. Facts should matter

    It’s not surprising that we’re deemed even MORE expendable and disposable during a pandemic such as this. This is just the perfect opportunity they were waiting for to go full blown genocide on us. It’s just pure and evil weaponized hatred.

  7. Ira Ellman

    The Attorney General has now followed up with an order dealing with the spread of the virus in prison by locking all inmates in their cells for 14 days, with the effect that their access to phone and email communicaiton with their families, exercise, etc will be greatly limited. For general coverage of the issue, see http://eepurl.com/gYr_lj

    California plans to expedite the release of up to 3,500 inmates in the coming weeks to combat the spread of the coronavirus through its prison system. But our governor has now followed the Barr lead, annoucning that the release will exclude violent offenders and “sex offenders”. See
    https://www.sfchronicle.com/politics/article/California-to-speed-release-of-3-500-prison-15170038.php?utm_campaign=CMS%20Sharing%20Tools%20(Premium)&utm_source=share-by-email&utm_medium=email

    • New Person

      Sadly, when the category of “sex offender” is presented, it’s a blanket discrimination as opposed to seeing there are gradients of sex offenses just like other criminal offenses.

      Registrants aren’t equal to its own set of grouping within the criminal community. We’re second class citizen and it’s exposed here with the exemptions from relief as well as compelling of in-person reporting during this viral crisis.

      The registry scheme has gone light years beyond it’s statutory purpose when public safety is of great importance, except when you’re sex offender. Then your safety is not a concern.

    • w

      The scheme is unraveling. The system is being exposed for its unjust treatment of registrants and will continue to do so around the country.

      This may be the precedent that strikes at the heart of the rso agenda and brings some much needed change. They have ti chose between the imaginary boogyman they’ve created and the REAL plague that’s actually causing harm to the public.

  8. Saddles

    Whether its a scheme or not as some say its about porn and the age of those actors or people that are on those porn. Its as if who can tell the difference in age of the actor in a lot of this so called porn from some that place it on the internet. Isn’t their a porn stop or is a money laundering thing. Government should get in gear to those film makers if thats the case. Those one’s that distribute this stuff for Americans today.

    One wonders why they banned cigarette commercials which I’m sure many can understand. This whole sex offender ordeal is a bit rediculous and a money making machine or are adult movies still statting one has to be over 18.

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