March 26 (UPI) -- Attorney General William Barr on Thursday issued a directive to the federal Bureau of Prisons on Thursday calling for at-risk prisoners to be sent home to reduce the inmate population and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The directive states that an inmate's eligibility would be determined by their age and vulnerability to COVID-19, their conduct in prison and whether they have a "demonstrated and verifiable" re-entry plan.
It added that inmates convicted of sex offenses would not be eligible and other "serious offenses" such as violent crimes would weigh heavily against their consideration for home detention.
Barr said during a press conference Thursday that one-third of the 146,000 inmates currently in federal prison facilities are believed to have pre-existing medical conditions and 10,000 inmates are older than 60.
"You want to make sure that our institutions don't become Petri dishes and it spreads rapidly through a particular institution," he said. "But we have the protocols that are designed to stop it and we are using all the tools we have to protect the inmates."
He added that in some cases inmates may be safer in the federal institutions than they would be at home.
"My main interest is making sure that they're safe to the community and that the situation they're going into is likely to be safer than staying where they are where they have ready access to doctors and we can keep them in isolation," Barr said.