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H.R. 4018: To provide that the amount of time that an elderly offender must serve before being eligible for placement in home detention is to be reduced by the amount of good time credits earned by the prisoner, and for other purposes.


More people aged 60 and older could get a “get out of jail free” card.

Context

The Second Chance Act of 2007 allowed some elderly prisoners to serve the remainder of their sentence at home, if they were at least 65 and had served either 10 years or ¾ of their sentence — whichever was longer.

The First Step Act of 2018 expanded the number of prisoners eligible, by reducing the age from 65 to 60, and reducing the time served to either 10 years or ⅔ of their sentence — still whichever is longer. Terminably ill prisoners were also made eligible.

However, the program doesn’t factor in time off a prisoner’s sentence for good behavior, which under federal law can be reduced by up to 54 days per year of the original sentence.

That’s a departure from the standard practice of the federal Bureau of Prisoners, which factors in time off for good behavior when — for example — deciding whether to move a prisoner to a lower-security facility.

What the bill does

A House bill would reduce the home stay of a nonviolent elderly prisoner eligible for the early-release program, factoring in their accumulated time off earned for good behavior.

Unlike most congressional legislation, this one does not appear to have an official title.

It was introduced in the House on July 25 as bill number H.R. 4018, by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL22).

What supporters say

Supporters argue the recidivism rate for elderly prisoners is much lower than for younger prisoners, making their release to home much less risky — and that it would save taxpayer money in the process.

“We are making an important clarification to the pilot program that allows elderly prisoners to transition to home confinement for the remainder of their sentence,” Rep. Deutch said in a press release. “As elderly prisoners are among the most vulnerable populations in prisons, this fix to include good time credit will allow more of them to benefit from this program. Not only is this the right thing to do, but it will also reduce federal costs in our prison system.”

GovTrack Insider was unable to locate any explicit statements of opposition, although eight House Republicans opposed the bill in committee without saying why.

Odds of passage

The House Judiciary Committee approved the bill on September 10 by a 28–8 vote. Democrats voted unanimously 21–0, while Republicans narrowly opposed it 7–8.

It then passed the full House on December 3 by a voice vote, a procedure usually used for noncontroversial legislation in which no record of individual votes is cast. Considering that a number of Republicans opposed the bill in committee, it’s unclear why a voice vote was used in the full chamber.

But no Republicans spoke against the bill on the House floor, after lead sponsor Rep. Deutch gave his speech in favor.

Last updated Feb 7, 2020. View all GovTrack summaries.

The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Dec 3, 2019.


This bill modifies the eligibility criteria for an elderly offender to qualify for early release from prison and placement in home detention.

Specifically, it reduces the amount of a prison term an elderly offender must serve by the amount of good time credits earned by the offender.