July 2021 was a month of releasing reports and speculating future policies. Numbers on COVID prison conditions were released, Biden is indicating a direction on revising the CARES Act prison mandates, officials are considering ousting the BOP director, and surges in crime have been reported in Minnesota. Read the summaries below to learn more.
Like the rest of the country, COVID cases in the Bureau of Federal Prisons (BOP) dropped last month but have started to climb once again. Three weeks ago, only 29 inmates in the BOP had COVID, but by late July, 261 inmates had COVID. Currently, 52.5% of BOP staff and 55.3% of inmates are vaccinated.
In April 2020, then Attorney-General William Barr issued a memorandum to BOP Director Michael Carvajal to move federal prisoners to home detention under a state of emergency declared by the CARES Act. Barr explained, “We have to move with dispatch in using home confinement, where appropriate, to move vulnerable inmates out of these institutions.” The goal was to isolate medically vulnerable prisoners at home away from highly populated prisons. Since then, over 5,000 prisoners have been moved to home detention.
However, COVID cases have since declined, and Biden has been forced to reevaluate the policy. Some Congressmen are advocating that Biden grant clemency to the convicts currently at home, but others say the convicts should return to prison. According to the New York Times, Biden has made his decision: all federal inmates currently on home detention will return to federal prisons one month after the state of emergency is ended. When the state of emergency will end, however, is still uncertain.
Convicts at home under CARES Act must return to prison after the pandemic.
According to top officials speaking on condition of anonymity, senior US officials are currently discussing whether to oust BOP director Michael Carvajal. The discussions are in response to claims of mismanagement, critical reports from the Justice Department inspector general, and numerous failures including failure to respond to COVID, escapes, and critically low staffing levels. The conversation about Carvajal’s position termination is in its initial stages, and no final decision has been made.
In late July, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension released a report that revealed a record surge in violent crime in Minnesota during 2020. Crime increased 17% overall, and murders increased 58%. GOP members responded by emphasizing the need to be tough on crime. “This is why you can’t go soft on crime,” Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said in a statement. Democrat leaders responded by calling Senate Republicans to join them in reducing crime rates. The increases in Minnesota are not abnormal; major cities across the country are similarly experiencing increases in crime.
Violent crime surges in Minnesota.