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For Paul Manafort, home confinement won’t be same as shelter-in-place

Edvard Pettersson
Bloomberg

Paul Manafort’s release from federal prison to serve his sentence at home amid the coronavirus pandemic probably won’t be a walk in the park.

Unlike millions of other people who are allowed to get outdoor exercise and walk their dogs even while they’re under virus shelter-in-place orders, convicts serving home confinement typically can’t go out at all except for doctor’s visits, church services and other limited activities – and only with permission from their probation officers.

Stay-at-home convicts are also required to call in daily from a landline phone at their home and are subject to random drug tests.

In this June 27, 2019 file photo, Paul Manafort arrives in court in New York. Manafort has been released from federal prison to serve the rest of his sentence in home confinement over concerns about the coronavirus, his lawyer said Wednesday.

Whether the former Donald Trump campaign manager will have to endure the full range of restrictions normally imposed on felons in his situation is less clear given the large number of federal inmates who have been sent home in recent weeks to serve their sentences because of the risk of exposure to Covid-19 in prisons.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr last month acknowledged that the Bureau of Prisons has limited resources to monitor all the inmates sent home and he dispensed with the need for electronic monitoring as long as individual convicts don’t pose a risk to public safety.

More: Paul Manafort released to home confinement over virus fears

“I doubt that the Bureau of Prisons or the courts will make a public announcement what other restrictions will be relaxed or enforced willy-nilly,” said David Schwartz, a criminal defense lawyer with Schwartz & Posnock in Eatontown, New Jersey. “That would only encourage people to break the rules.”

Representatives of the Bureau of Prisons and an attorney for Manafort didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on the conditions of his home confinement.

About 2,500 federal inmates have been transfered to home confinement because of the pandemic, according to the Bureau of Prisons website. As of Wednesday, 2,820 inmates had tested positive for coronavirus and 51 had died from it.

Manafort, 71, was released Wednesday from a low-security prison in Loretto, Pennsylvania, where he started serving a 7-1/2 year sentence last year, and was headed to his home in northern Virginia. There haven’t been any cases of Covid-19 at the facility, according to the Bureau of Prison’s website.

Manafort’s case is very different from other inmates who get sent home for the last few months of their sentence because he has about five years left to serve, said Kevin Ring, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, a criminal justice reform organization.

Rather than using home confinement as a way of transitioning inmates back in the community, it’s now being used to keep inmates out of harm’s way, according to Ring.

“We don’t have any experience with anyone serving this much time in home confinement,” Ring said. “Compared to prison it’s so much better, but you are being monitored and you can’t screw up.”