May 28, 2021

Senate Judiciary Committee Advances Durbin, Grassley COVID-19 Safer Detention Act

WASHINGTON – Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance out of Committee the bipartisan COVID-19 Safer Detention Act of 2021authored by U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill will reform the Elderly Home Detention Pilot Program and compassionate release from federal prisons.  It was passed out of Committee by a bipartisan vote of 14-8. 

“This legislation will give judges the same authority to review BOP’s decisions for the Elderly Home Detention program as they have for BOP’s compassionate release decisions, and make other important changes to ensure these programs are used to safely reduce prison populations and protect inmates, prison staff, and their families,”Durbin said.  “I am proud to have partnered with Ranking Member Grassley to introduce this bill.  This is a common sense step the Senate should pass.”

Sadly, at least 237 federal prisoners with pre-existing medical conditions that made them more vulnerable to COVID-19 have died as a result of the virus, more than half of whom were over 60 years old.  Elderly offenders, the fastest-growing portion of the prison population, have much lower rates of recidivism and are much more expensive to incarcerate due to their health care needs.  Since enactment of the First Step Act, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has opposed the vast majority of compassionate release petitions. 

The bill is also cosponsored by U.S. Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Chris Coons (D-DE), Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Cory Booker (D-NJ). More information on the COVID-19 Safer Detention Act of 2021 can be found here.  

The following organizations support the COVID-19 Safer Detention Act: Americans for Prosperity, Drug Policy Alliance, Due Process Institute, FAMM, Federal Public and Community Defenders, FreedomWorks, Innocence Project, Justice Action Network, Law Enforcement Leaders, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), Prison Fellowship, Right on Crime, Sentencing Project, Taking Action For Good, Tzedek Association, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, ACLU, Americans for Tax Reform, Dream Corps JUSTICE, FedCURE, and Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.