ELC: Reducing Prison Population to Lower the Risk of COVID-19

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Thursday, September 24, 2020 - 8:50am

Navigating the uncharted waters of a modern-day pandemic has been difficult and challenging for everyone, particularly for people working and living in congregate housing settings. That’s one reason DPS is using existing provisions in state law to reduce the prison population to help reduce the spread of the virus.

Extending the Limits of Confinement (ELC) allows certain individuals to serve the remainder of their sentence at home or in transitional housing. ELC is not an early release or commutation. Participants are still considered incarcerated and are supervised by probation and parole officers from the Division of Community Corrections. Violating the terms of ELC can result in the offender being returned to a correctional facility.

“The safety of our employees and those in our custody is our top priority,” said Tim Moose, chief deputy secretary of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice. “ELC is one of many initiatives the department has worked diligently on to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.”
Offenders must meet several criteria to be considered for ELC. 

Offenders who are currently serving a sentence for a crime against a person are automatically disqualified from ELC. Other circumstances may also disqualify an offender for ELC, such as recent rules infractions, detainers, pending charges and identification as a validated member of a security risk group. 

Participants must also meet at least one of the following criteria to be considered:

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Serving Sentences Outside a Prison

  • Be pregnant
  • Already be on home leave with a 2020 or 2021 release date
  • Already be on work release with a 2020 or 2021 release date
  • Be age 65+ with a 2020 or 2021 or 2022 release date 
  • Have a 2020 or 2021 release date and underlying health conditions deemed by CDC that increase a person’s risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

It is very important to note, meeting one of the above criteria does not guarantee ELC participation. 

In addition to some disqualifiers, there are some circumstances that may delay the individual’s move to ELC. For instance, if the person has pending charges, the local district attorney is contacted to determine if he or she consents to the person being placed on ELC.  

Offenders’ home plans are carefully reviewed to make sure they have a stable home to go to. Their current health and medical needs are also carefully reviewed to determine if they have access to medical care, medications and any necessary medical equipment. 

“There are a variety of reasons the individual’s medical needs may delay approval of ELC,” said Tracy Little, deputy secretary of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice. “The department does not want to send an offender into the community who cannot access needed health care. That only further jeopardizes their health and the health of others.”

More than 500 people have participated in ELC so far as of early September. Currently a little more than 300 are active in ELC. More than 130 people have completed their sentence and transitioned to Post Release Supervision. (PRS) Roughly 25 individuals have returned to a correctional facility because they violated the terms of ELC. 

DPS continues to review the offender population and priority lists for inclusion in ELC. 

“These reviews do take time and everyone’s situation is a little different,” said Nicole Sullivan, director of Reentry Programs and Services. “There are a lot of checks and details we must work through to help ensure public safety, public health and the individual’s health.”

More information about ELC is available here 
More information about efforts to protect offenders and staff from COVID-19 is available here

Author: 
Greg Thomas