- Nearly 4,000 people who were released from prison due to the CARES Act could be sent back soon.
- The Biden administration has said it would be an ‘extraordinary intervention’ to stop their return to prison.
- These people are home with their families and rebuilding their lives – Biden has the power to keep them out of prison.
- Michael Novogratz is founder and CEO of Galaxy Digital and founder and co-chair for Galaxy Gives.
- This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the authors.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Jeanne Rae Green was given home confinement in July 2020 because of the CARES Act, seven years into a 12-year sentence on drug charges. Now, a year later, Jeanne Rae is living with her cousin in Texas, working as an essential worker at a food mart, and has begun to rebuild her life. She has rebuilt her relationships with her children, siblings, and family and has become an active mother and grandmother in her children and grandchildren’s lives – potentially stopping generational harm in its tracks.
4,000 people who, like Jeanne, have been freed from incarceration are currently home with their families and with the people they love, making meaningful contributions to their communities, and are about to be sent back to prison because of a lack of political will to do the thing that is urgent, that is right, and that is just.
In July, The New York Times reported that the Biden administration is leaning towards forcing people released from incarceration under the CARES Act to return to federal prison when the COVID emergency is over. Last week, the White House stated that the Biden administration is considering granting commutations to those under home confinement who have federal drug charges and have less than four years left in their sentences. If enacted, that decision would only affect about 2,000 out of the 4,000 people currently under home confinement. To those that don’t fit the criteria, the administration will force them back to federal prison.
For these individuals, the decision could be devastating to the progress they’ve made since emerging from behind bars. Sending Jeanne back to prison and hampering her progress would have the opposite effect of what our justice system purports to achieve.
And Jeanne Rae Green’s story is not an exception; her success mirrors what our country has seen throughout this process.
President Biden has the authority to grant commutations to these individuals like Jeanne so that they can move forward with their lives, but the administration has argued that doing so would be an extraordinary intervention in our nation’s criminal justice system and would come with both political and public safety risks.
The truth is our justice system is in need of extraordinary interventions. And, in this case, the risks are well worth the rewards.
It’s a low-risk decision
Risk assessment is a big part of my career. I spent decades as a hedge fund manager on Wall Street, including as a partner at Goldman Sachs. I was one of the first and largest investors in Bitcoin. As a Wall Streeter, I have insights on how to accurately assess risk.
I am also a stakeholder when it comes to the criminal justice system. My wife is a crime survivor, and for the past five years I have been making criminal justice the focus of my philanthropic efforts, visiting prisons around the country and hiring formerly incarcerated people in leadership positions in my companies.
Based on my experience, I believe that commuting the sentences of these 4,000 individuals is an excellent investment for the president.
The 4,000 Americans in question already went through a detailed vetting process in order to gain their release. In 2020, Congress passed the CARES Act which authorized the Federal Bureau of Prisons to release very low-risk prisoners to home confinement to alleviate the overcrowding in federal prisons and to reduce the dangers of COVID transmission.
As a result, nearly 24,000 federal prisoners served their sentences at home during the pandemic. Of these 24,000 people, 99.37% of them abided fully by the terms of their home confinement. And only three people were arrested for new crimes – a far lower arrest rate than the general population.
The continuity of keeping these Americans home to serve out their sentence is as much about maintaining law and order as it is about redemption and second chances. When our criminal justice system works well it brings people back to the community in a better position to succeed than when they went in. And I share a majority of my fellow Americans’ belief in second chances, that people can change and that we are not defined by our worst moments.
An “extraordinary intervention” to the criminal justice system is a priority for American voters, and it is important to the president himself. On the campaign trail, President Biden often spoke about the need to change our criminal justice system and committed to enact change. At one point in the campaign, he even said we could cut our prison population by “more than” 50%, by investing in alternatives to prison.
As we start to emerge from the pandemic and come together as a nation, the president needs to keep the promise he made to voters that he would deliver alternatives to incarceration – here are 4,000 people he can begin with.