Justice Roundtable Priorities Included in the House of Representatives’ HEROES Act
(COVID-19 Response Package Passed by the House on May 15, 2020)
- $200 million in new funding to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus in Federal prisons, including funding for medical testing and services, personal protective equipment, hygiene supplies and services, and sanitation services.
- $300 million to continue support to state and local governments to prevent and respond to COVID-19 in correctional facilities, including providing appropriate sanitation, PPE, and medical care to incarcerated individuals and staff. Funding would be distributed to states and localities through the Byrne Justice Assistance Grants formula.
- A new $600 million grant program in the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs (DOJ/OJP) that reflects language in H.R. 6414/S. 3720, The COVID-19 Correctional Facility Emergency Response Act. The program would provide funding to states and localities to incentivize correctional facility releases (including pre-trial) during the COVID-19 pandemic. To facilitate the enhanced reentry planning and support needed, the program would support reentry services during the COVID-19 emergency and would allow nonprofits to deliver reentry services. The program also would include $75 million for juveniles and $25 million for COVID-19 testing in facilities.
- Inclusion of the Emergency Community Supervision Act which, during a declared national health emergency, would mandate transfers to community supervision for individuals incarcerated in federal pre-trial detention and prisons who are most vulnerable to infection, including pregnant women, juveniles, individuals 50 and over, individuals with certain medical conditions, and individuals within one year of release.
- Court authority to reduce sentences and temporary release authority which would expand court authority to order compassionate release for individuals incarcerated in the federal prison system and reduce sentences, including for those sentenced before 1987 under parole eligibility, and remove administrative barriers that slow the ability of prisoners to seek compassionate release during the COVID-19 emergency.
- Increase the availability of home detention for elderly people incarcerated for non-violent federal offenses during the COVID-19 emergency period by ensuring that participants in the elderly prisoner home confinement pilot program get credit for good conduct time earned and expands the eligibility to people 50 and older who have completed at least 50% of their sentence.
- Inclusion of the Effective Assistance of Counsel in the Digital Era Act which would direct the Attorney General to put in place an electronic communication system for persons in federal custody that ensures confidential communication between those in custody and their attorneys.
- A moratorium on fees and fines that would establish a grant program to distribute funds directly to state and local courts, with the condition that they implement a moratorium on the imposition and collection of court-imposed fees and fines during the COVID-19 crisis.
- $250 million for the DOJ/OJP Second Chance Act Programthat would support expanded access to urgently needed reentry programming.
- Housing support through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that would help reentering individuals at risk for homelessness or who meet homelessness criteria, including:
- $11.5 billion for Emergency Solutions Grants
- $100 billion in emergency rental assistance
- Medicaid Reentry Program authorization that would permit Medicaid coverage for individuals who are incarcerated for 30 days prior to release which would enhance access to medical and behavioral health care both prior to and during reentry. The language also would require a report to Congress on the “inmate exclusion” provision in Medicaid that prevents Medicaid coverage for people who are incarcerated – an important first step to removing this long-standing exclusion that has reduced access to health care in correctional facilities and upon reentry.
- Access to Economic Impact Payments (stimulus checks) for individuals who have child support arrears (a problem for many formerly incarcerated individuals who fall behind on payments while incarcerated). Full, ungarnished access to this cash assistance would help support access to basic necessities during reentry.
- $2.04 billion in workforce development assistance through the Department of Labor’s Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) programthat would increase support for transitional jobs and other workforce programs, including for youth and workers with barriers. This support is especially important to help reduce the already high unemployment rate for individuals with records, especially now during this significant economic downturn.
- Revised Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program criteria that would significantly narrow program ineligibility based on criminal history to individuals who are incarcerated or who have a felony financial fraud or deception conviction within the last 5 years. Narrowing these disqualifications is key because many individuals with records have established businesses since it is so hard to secure employment with others. These entrepreneurs have been more willing to hire employees with records, creating critical employment opportunities. Excluding these businesses from federal assistance would severely impact employment opportunities for individuals with records, especially those who are reentering.