It seemed a welcome announcement for prisoners and their families. On Thursday, U.S. Attorney General William Barr ordered the federal prison system to release some elderly or sick people instead of keeping them in overcrowded penitentiaries where the coronavirus is already spreading.
There are “at-risk inmates who are non-violent and pose minimal likelihood of recidivism and who might be safer serving their sentences in home confinement,” Barr wrote in a two-page memo to the Bureau of Prisons.
But on closer inspection, his plan may exclude many vulnerable prisoners from being released—and may also create racial disparities in who gets out of prison.
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