Last Tuesday, members of Red Aid gathered outside of the Travis County Democratic Party headquarters to stand against a recent order from Joe Biden. This order would send thousands of federal prisoners who were released to home confinement in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic back to prison once the federal declaration of emergency ends.
This order was originally ruled by Trump’s Justice Department, but Biden’s administration has stated their intent to follow through with this ruling. Democrats like those in Travis County told people to vote for Biden because they said he would be completely different than Trump, but he is furthering the oppression of the Trump administration.
At the start of the pandemic in March 2020, the Justice Department authorized that about 24,000 prisoners be placed in home confinement in an effort to reduce the spread of coronavirus. This authorization was set to end 30 days after whenever the pandemic national emergency ends.
Many of these prisoners who returned home have settled back in to their communities and obtained jobs to support their families. By going through with this decision, the Biden administration will not only be ripping these families apart, but will also be sending federal prisoners into increasingly dangerous conditions. COVID continues to ravage American prisoner populations, and the federal government is risking these prisoners’ lives by sending them back to these COVID hotbeds.
As the Delta variant begins to spread across the United States, it will disproportionately affect incarcerated people who are pushed into cramped spaces with horrible conditions, just as it did during the start of the pandemic.
Out of the 24,000 prisoners who were released, a small percentage were reported to have violated the terms of home confinement. An example of this includes a 76 year old Black woman named Gwen Levi, who didn’t answer a phone call from officials because she was attending a computer class. Levi was placed under arrest but was soon released after the State faced justified anger from the people. These are people who the Biden administration is demanding return to prison– people who are working hard to rebuild their lives after experiencing the horrific conditions of federal prison.
There is absolutely nothing progressive about sending more people to prison. Biden campaigned on the wave of the Black Lives Matter movement, while refusing to release the more than 300 federal prisoners who were arrested for fighting for Black lives last summer. On top of that, according to a recent domestic terrorism report given by his administration, he is planning to ramp up surveillance and repression of any anarchist and anti-capitalist activists who stand up against this racist system.
Red Aid started a coalition called Drop the Charges to demand the thousands of people charged during the George Floyd protests for Black lives have their charges dropped. As a part of this campaign, we have demanded that the Biden administration drop the more than 300 federal charges against these protesters. He has yet to drop these charges against people who rightfully took action against this racist system.
Biden claimed to be a progressive criminal justice reformer and said he would reduce the federal prison population on the campaign trail. Since taking office back in January, Biden has increased the federal prison population by incarcerating nearly 3,000 more people over the course of seven months. Simultaneously, Bureau of Prison staffing levels are at a historic low with one third of federal correctional officer jobs are vacant. These conditions make it even more obvious that prisoners released due to COVID-19 should not be sent back to prison.
Red Aid demands that all federal prisoners who have already been released during the pandemic should remain free and not be forced to go back to prison. We demand the Biden administration commute the sentences of these people so that they can live without the uncertainty of having to return to prison and move on with their lives.
Join us to get involved to fight back and demand Biden not to put released prisoners back in prison, and to drop the more than 300 federal charges against Black Lives Matter protesters.