This week, the U.S. House passed U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch’s, D-Fla., proposal to let nonviolent elderly prisoners serve their sentences in home detention programs without opposition.
Deutch, who sits on the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, was able to reel in support from both sides of the aisle including from committee chairman U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-NY, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., the top Republican on the committee, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., and U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash. Other prominent backers include U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif.., who leads the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security and U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-NY.
The bill cleared the House on a voice vote on Wednesday.
“The Elderly and Family Reunification for Certain Non-Violent Offenders Pilot Program, which was reauthorized by the FIRST STEP Act of 2018, permits the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to transfer eligible nonviolent elderly prisoners into a home detention pilot program based on the prisoner serving two-thirds of their sentence. However, as the statute is currently interpreted, the two-thirds sentence does not include good time credit. This bill would clarify the law to allow eligible nonviolent elderly prisoners to include good time credit as part of their two-thirds sentence requirement. Prisoners in the federal system can earn up to 54 days per year in good time credits that subtract from their total sentence,” Deutch’s office noted.
“I’m grateful for the support of Ranking Member Collins, Congressman Jeffries, Chairwoman Bass, and Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers on this bill,” Deutch said after his bill cleared the House on Wednesday. “With its passage, we are making an important clarification to the pilot program that allows elderly prisoners to transition to home confinement for the remainder of their sentence. As elderly prisoners are among the most vulnerable populations in prisons, this fix to include good time credit will allow more of them to benefit from this program. Not only is this the right thing to do, but it will also reduce federal costs in our prison system.”
“When the FIRST STEP Act was signed into law last year, it represented monumental bipartisan reform to our prison system. Today’s bill builds upon that momentum because it promotes fairness in the implementation of Good Conduct Time. My bipartisan bill will ensure our prisons do not become nursing homes, it will save taxpayer dollars and it will reward inmates who serve their time with good behavior. I look forward to seeing the Senate pass this bill and the president sign it into law,” said Collins.
“The FIRST STEP Act was just that – a first step,” said Bass. “Today, my colleagues and I are building on this work by taking yet another step towards a more just and fair criminal justice system. Allowing nonviolent elderly prisoners to serve the remainder of their sentence in a home detention program is the right thing to do and it will save money as well. I’m proud to support my colleagues on this important piece of legislation and look forward to continuing our work to reform the criminal justice system.”
“As we continue looking for ways to reform our criminal justice system, my goal will always be to keep our communities safe and secure. Thoughtful changes to improve our prison system require accountability and fairness. This bipartisan legislation meets those goals by providing elderly offenders, who demonstrate good behavior, the opportunity to transition to home confinement to serve out their sentence,” McMorris Rodgers said.
The bill drew support from both the left and right as almost 35 groups backed it including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Center for American Progress, FreedomWorks, Heritage Action for America and the NAACP.
Deutch’s bill now heads to the U.S. Senate. So far, there is no related legislation in the Senate.
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