Lawmakers in the House of Representatives released their $2.2 trillion COVID-19 relief legislative package. The bill incorporates several provisions designed to protect people incarcerated in prisons including releasing people who are at high risk of contracting COVID-19, reducing pre-trial detention in jails, and providing additional funds for testing and contact tracing.

Specifically, the House bill would lower the age of eligibility for elderly home confinement from 60 years to the age of 50. For those on elderly home confinement, their length of sentence would be shortened to one half.

Additionally, this piece of legislation would expand access to compassionate release for older or ill incarcerated individuals. By temporarily removing wait times, granting access to counsel for indigent applicants and instituting a presumption of sentence reduction for especially vulnerable groups, compassionate release can help protect incarcerated people contracting COVID-19.

Jesse Kelley, Government Affairs manager for Criminal Justice & Civil Liberties, says, “With social distancing all but impossible in jails and prisons, we believe increasing the use of compassionate release and reevaluating at-home confinement are important legislative changes that can save lives.”

This piece of legislation also goes a step further to protect formerly incarcerated people. The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Second Chance Act, a bipartisan bill originally introduced by Senators Portman, Cardin, Booker and Lankford, has been included in the relief package. Upon passage, this provision would remove barriers to PPP for business owners with criminal records which will ultimately aid in spurring our economy towards recovery.

“One in three Americans have some type of criminal record,” says Arthur Rizer, director of Criminal Justice & Civil Liberties, “By removing barriers for business owners with criminal histories, we can move towards a more equitable and stable economy. Indeed, for many formerly incarcerated persons, self-employment is their only realistic path to financial independence, since traditional employment is out of bounds.”

For more information on R Street Institute’s Criminal Justice & Civil Liberties policy positions, visit www.rstreet.org.