Don’t End Rehabilitation of Thousands of Reformed Prisoners

Target: Merrick Garland, U.S. Attorney General

Goal: Extend and expand compassionate release program for non-violent offenders serving time in prison.

The ongoing debate about retribution vs. rehabilitation in prison is about to heat up once again. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, roughly 24,000 non-violent offenders were released from prison to serve out their sentences under monitored home confinement. This move is believed to have prevented more deadly outbreaks amongst highly vulnerable-to-infection populations. The approach was also viewed as a promising if unexpected outlet for prison reform. As restrictions ease nationwide, however, these individuals who have been slowly rebuilding and improving their lives may face a return to prison.

To be clear, none of the inmates available for this program were deemed to be a threat to society, as felons convicted of violent crimes that hurt others were not eligible. The individuals impacted by the transition by and large have made great strides during their time away from hard time: gaining employment, resuming schooling, and re-securing valued bonds with family. A memo has hinted at an eventual return to prison, however, where all the hard work these individuals put toward redemption could be lost.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) can prevent this bleak outcome from happening. Sign the petition below to urge the DOJ to invest in rehabilitation, not retribution.


Dear Attorney General Garland,

The COVID-19 compassionate release program is the biggest case study yet that demonstrates the very real benefits of prison reform. Thousands of Americans have utilized their early release to home confinement to turn their lives around and atone for their crimes by forging a better path forward. Now this progress stands at risk, as the Department of Justice must decide whether to send these non-violent offenders back to hard time in prison.

Let’s weigh the costs. Each of these individuals, while in prison, costs taxpayers about $40,000 annually. Out of prison, they are contributing their skills, their knowledge, and their efforts to boosting the economy. On a personal level, they are present for their children and their partners, providing invaluable love, support, and family and community contributions. These people are a success story.

One affected inmate spoke for many of the potential change: “they let us go, and we reintegrate, and then it feels like nothing matters. All the hard work you put in, it doesn’t matter. We’re just a number to them.” Do not prove these individuals right. Don’t turn this triumph into a failure. Do not end compassionate release. Expand it and invest in rehabilitation and reform.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Donald Tong

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