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AG Barr’s Memo Reveals ‘Risk Score,’ Other Factors Will Determine Which Inmates Get Home Confinement

Criminal justice reform advocates, defense attorneys, former federal judges and even former Department of Justice attorneys have for weeks now been sounding the alarm about the threat that rapid spread of COVID-19 poses to inmates, jails officials and also the general public. Various high-profile inmates have cited COVID-19 fears in an attempt to get home confinement, at least one unsuccessfully. U.S. Attorney General William Barr sent a memo on Thursday to the Director of the Bureau of Prisons (BOP), establishing guidelines for determining which inmates are home confinement priorities and which aren’t.

“I am issuing this Memorandum to ensure we utilize home conferment where appropriate, to protect the health and safety of BOP personnel and the people in our custody,” Barr said.

Here were six (of many) factors that Barr said must be taken into account when considering the “totality of circumstances for each individual inmate”:

  1. the age and vulnerability of the inmate to COVID-19, in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines;
  2. The security level of the facility currently holding the inmate, with priority given to inmates residing in low and minimum security facilities;
  3. The inmate’s conduct in prison, with inmates who have engaged in violent or gang-related activity in prison or who have incurred a BOP violation within the last year not receiving priority treatment under this Memorandum;
  4. The inmate’s score under PATTERN, with inmates who have anything above a minimum score not receiving priority treatment under this Memorandum;
  5. Whether the inmate has a demonstrated and verifiable re-entry plan that will prevent recidivism and maximize public safety, including verification that conditions under which the inmate would be confined upon release would present a lower risk of contracting COVID-19 than the inmate would face in his or her BOP facility;
  6. The inmate’s crime of conviction, and assessment of the danger posed by the inmate to the community. Some offenses, such as sex offenses, will render an inmate ineligible for home detention. Other serious offenses should weigh more heavily against consideration for home detention.

Some notables: No sex offenders will be eligible for home confinement (yes, that means if Jeffrey Epstein were still alive he, for once, would not get special treatment); inmates in low and minimum security prisons will be given priority; the Prisoner Assessment Tool Targeting Estimated Risk and Need (PATTERN) matters big time; so do gang affiliations and an inmate’s behavior behind bars in the last year.

If PATTERN’s “risk score” for an inmate is “anything above a minimum,” that inmate will not get priority eligibility for home confinement.

Barr also said that the BOP needs to make sure inmates eligible for home confinement do not then spread COVID-19.

“I am therefore directing you to place any inmate to whom you grant home confinement in a mandatory 14-day quarantine period before that inmate is discharged from a BOP facility to home confinement,” Barr said. “Inmates transferred to home confinement under this prioritized process should also be subject to location monitoring services and, where a court order is entered, be subject to supervised release.”

[Image via  Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images]

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Matt Naham is managing editor of Law&Crime. He formerly worked as news editor and weekend editor at Rare.