More inmates released to house arrest because of COVID-19, but some officers have concerns

Published: May. 6, 2020 at 9:10 AM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Inmates are trading prison cells for house arrest, but it is not as simple as unlocking the cell door.

“If they are not a danger, they should be given this opportunity of home confinement or release,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said.

Durbin was an early supporter of lowering prison populations to help stop the spread of coronavirus, especially for elderly inmates.

He admits the move comes with challenges. Durbin says there are issues quarantining and testing inmates before their release.

“We need to be patient and realistic, but we should move toward this goal,” Durbin said.

As of Wednesday, more than 2,000 more federal inmates have been released to home confinement since the end of March, according to the Bureau of Federal Prisons website.

Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association president Larry Cosme tell us the influx of inmates moving to house arrest is an added burden on already stretched thin federal officers.

Cosme represents more than 26,000 officers. He said releasing more inmates takes more resources.

“You need extra officers. They need the proper compensation so they can monitor this adequately 24/7. They need to have the resources, the personal protection equipment, adequate equipment. They need additional monies so they can ramp up all this digital ankle monitoring,” Cosme said.

He said officers often assist released inmates with services that help them rejoin society successfully, like housing, health care and job training.

Officers are lobbying Congress for more money to help ease the burden. They warn without this help, released inmates could be just as vulnerable as they were in prison.

Durbin says the Senate plans to take another look at the funding needed for the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

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