Norton Amendment Making D.C. Code Offenders in Federal Prison Eligible for Early Release During the Coronavirus Passes in the Rules Committee

May 14, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) announced that the House Rules Committee today passed her amendment to the House’s fifth coronavirus response bill, the Heroes Act, clarifying that District of Columbia Code offenders in the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) are eligible for early release during the coronavirus. The introduced version of the Heroes Act made individuals meeting certain age and health criteria eligible for early release during the coronavirus, but was silent on whether this provision applied only to federal offenders in BOP or to both federal and D.C. Code offenders in BOP. Norton thanked House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) for working with her on the amendment. The House is expected to vote on the Heroes Act, as amended by Norton’s amendment, tomorrow.

“I want to thank my good friend Jerry Nadler for working with me to ensure that D.C. Code offenders are eligible for early release from federal prison during the coronavirus,” Norton said. “We need to do everything we can, consistent with public safety, to protect all individuals in federal custody from the coronavirus. Early release may be the best option for many. I look forward to continuing to work with Chairman Nadler to ensure that the D.C. Code offender early release provision is enacted into law.”

D.C. Code felons are housed by BOP and are the only local offenders BOP is required by law to house. During the coronavirus, Norton has successfully worked to get most D.C. Code felons out of halfway houses and placed on home confinement instead. She has also achieved a reduction in the number of D.C. Code felons incarcerated under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Parole Commission, which has jurisdiction over D.C. Code felons on parole and supervised release.  Norton continues to work to ensure that D.C. Code felons are eligible for the early release provisions under the First Step Act, as Congress intended. Despite repeated requests by Norton since the First Step Act was enacted in 2018, the Department of Justice has yet to rule on whether D.C. Code felons are eligible for the early release provisions. The First Step Act is a major federal criminal justice reform law that provides such benefits as good time credit, early release by participating in recidivism reduction programs and additional phone privileges and visitation, among other things.