Durbin, Lee Introduce Bill To Allow Nonviolent Elderly Prisoners Eligible For Release To Home Confinement To Benefit From Good Time Credit

The First Step Act Reauthorized And Expanded A Pilot Program To Place Elderly And Terminally Ill Inmates In Home Confinement, But BOP’s Misinterpretation Of This Provision Will Result In Elderly Offenders Unnecessarily Spending A Longer Time Behind Bars Before Becoming Eligible For Release To Home Confinement

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Mike Lee (R-UT), both original sponsors of the landmark First Step Act of 2018, today introduced bipartisan legislation that amends the Elderly and Family Reunification for Certain Non-Violent Offenders Pilot Program reauthorized by the First Step Act.

The First Step Act reauthorized and expanded a pilot program under the Second Chance Act to place eligible elderly and terminally ill inmates in home confinement.  The law allows the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to release eligible inmates to home detention if they are sixty or older.  To be eligible for the program, inmates must have served two-thirds of their sentence.  In federal prisons, all inmates who maintain good behavior while imprisoned are awarded 54 days a year of Good Conduct Time credits (“good time credits”).  Unfortunately, BOP has misinterpreted the Elderly Offender Pilot Program to exclude the application of Good Conduct Time.  That means that eligible, nonviolent, elderly offenders must spend more time in federal prison awaiting transfer to home confinement, which unnecessarily delays their returns to their communities and wastes taxpayer dollars.

“Last year, Congress came together to pass one of the most important criminal justice reform laws in a generation.  Now we have an obligation to ensure that this law is properly implemented,” Durbin said.  “My legislation with Senator Lee would adjust an important provision in the First Step Act that will allow selected elderly prisoners to transition to home confinement for the remainder of their sentence – just as the First Step Act intended.  I’m hopeful that this technical fix will pass swiftly through the House and Senate and will be signed by President Trump.”

“Successful state reforms have shown us that it is most often both inhumane and unproductive to warehouse elderly inmates that are not a threat to anyone,” said Lee.  “This bill would simply clarify a misinterpreted segment of The First Step Act that is preventing the legislation from providing the relief intended for older inmates.”

Along with Durbin and Lee, the bill is cosponsored by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Coons (D-DE), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT).

Durbin’s and Lee’s bill is the companion legislation to the bipartisan House bill introduced by U.S. Representatives Ted Deutch (D-FL-22), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY-08), and Doug Collins (R-GA-09).  This legislation unanimously passed the House of Representatives on December 3.

Durbin and Lee were lead authors of the First Step Act, which was enacted into law in 2018 after years of bipartisan efforts.  The law uses evidence-based recidivism reduction programs to help inmates successfully return to society after serving their sentences.  It also reduces draconian mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug offenses.