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Thousands of prisoners under home confinement during pandemic face return to prison

Thousands of prisoners who've been in home confinement for as long as a year because of the pandemic face returning to prison when it's over — unless President Biden rescinds a last-minute Trump Justice Department memo.

Why it matters: Most prisoners were told they would not have to come back as they were released early with ankle bracelets. Now, their lives are on hold while they wait to see whether or when they may be forced back behind bars. Advocates say about 4,500 people are affected.


What they're saying: Chad Ducey, a 45-year-old from Indiana, said he would have been more guarded with his 10- and 12-year-old kids after being released had he known there was a chance of going back to prison.

  • "I would have handled the whole situation completely different, but I came back and went full bore into reestablishing that relationship and being the best Dad I can be," Ducey told Axios.
  • He said it seemed cruel to force a family to be separated twice for one crime.

Between the lines: People like Ducey, advocacy groups and members of Congress have pleaded with the current administration to rescind the DOJ Office of Legal Counsel memo opinion issued just days before Trump left office.

  • It found that the 2020 CARES Act — which gave the Bureau of Prisons authority to release inmates early — also requires it to recall people to prison to serve the rest of their sentence when the emergency period ends.
  • Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland last month, asking him to rescind the memo.

Criminal justice reform groups at least want the memo reviewed, new guidance issued or for the Justice Department to find other ways to allow people who've been released to serve the rest of their time at home.

  • Groups like Justice Action Network, Families Against Mandatory Minimums and the ACLU are now calling on Biden to use his clemency powers to commute the sentences of people who would be forced back to prison.
  • '"Just the thought of me having to go back — I've had to stop and take my medicine," said Miranda McLauren, a 43-year-old Black woman.
  • She served multiple Army tours in Iraq before being convicted of low-level drug charges. She said she struggles with PTSD and depression.

BOP spokesperson Randilee Giamusso told Axios the bureau can use discretion for people whose sentences are almost over, but for others, "this will be an issue only after the pandemic is over."

  • The national emergency was recently extended, and the bureau "is focused right now on expanding the criteria for home confinement."

The big picture: Biden has faced criticism for his role in the 1994 Crime Bill, which substantially increased prison populations.

  • "This is potentially a larger increase in the federal prison population," Justice Action Network federal director Inimai Chettiar told Axios.

What to watch at the Olympics today: Gymnastics, golf, 3x3 basketball, swimming

5 events to watch today...

  • 🤸‍♀️ Men’s gymnastics: Team USA’s Sam Mikulak and Brody Malone compete in the individual all-around final. Coverage starts at 6:15 a.m. on Peacock (watch the replay at 8 p.m. ET on NBC)
  • 🏀 3x3 Basketball: The women’s gold medal game between the U.S. and Russia starts at 8:55 a.m. ET on USA Network. Russia and Latvia will play in the men’s final at 9:25 a.m. ET.
  • 🏌️ Men’s golf: Round one tees off at 6:30 p.m. ET on the Golf Channel or stream on nbcolympics.com.
  • 🏊 Swimming: Men’s 800m freestyle, 200m breaststroke and 100m freestyle finals and women’s 200m butterfly final. Coverage starts at 9:30 p.m. on NBC.
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National parks "drowning in tourists"

Data: National Park Service; note: Gateway National Recreation Area is excluded due to missing data in 2021. Chart: Connor Rothschild/Axios

National Parks across the U.S. are overflowing with a post-pandemic crush of tourists, leading to increased issues with congestion, traffic jams, user experience, strain on staff and increased damage to the parks.

Why it matters: Some are seeing such a record number they're being forced to limit, and even close, access to certain areas to avoid the danger of eroding the land. The result, ultimately, could change the way Americans interact with the parks going forward.

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Facebook's next chapter: Build the "metaverse"

Facebook's "next chapter," Mark Zuckerberg says, is to be prime builder of "the metaverse" — an open, broadly distributed, 3D dimension online where, he says, we will all conduct much of our work and personal lives.

The big picture: Zuckerberg admits Facebook will only be one of many companies building this next-generation model of today's internet — but he also intends Facebook to lead the pack.

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CDC asks the vaccinated to help save the unvaccinated from themselves

The Biden administration is essentially asking vaccinated Americans to help save the unvaccinated from themselves.

The big picture: America's "pandemic of the unvaccinated" has gotten bad enough that vaccine mandates are starting to catch on, and masks are coming back — in some cases, even for the vaccinated.

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Least persuadable unvaccinated Americans are largely white and Republican

Data: Axios-Ipsos Poll; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

The most hardcore opponents of coronavirus vaccination — the group who say they'll never get one — tend to be older, whiter and more Republican than the unvaccinated Americans who are still persuadable, according to an analysis of our Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

Why it matters: As the Delta variant triggers more COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths, mostly among the unvaccinated, the Biden administration and even some high-profile GOP political and media figures are trying to figure out how to nudge the country's vaccination rate higher.

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Female Olympians push back against double standard in uniforms

Female Olympians in Tokyo are rejecting the uniforms that have long defined their sports, highlighting a double standard that exists how women dress in competition vs. men.

Driving the news: During their qualifying round Sunday, Germany's women's gymnastics team wore full-length unitards, eschewing the conventional leg-barring leotards worn by most female gymnasts.

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Simone Biles won't defend Olympic title at gymnastics all-around final in Tokyo

U.S. gymnastics great Simone Biles won't defend her Olympic title in the upcoming all-around final as she continues to focus on her mental health, USA Gymnastics announced Wednesday.

After further medical evaluation, Simone Biles has withdrawn from the final individual all-around competition. We wholeheartedly support Simone’s decision and applaud her bravery in prioritizing her well-being. Her courage shows, yet again, why she is a role model for so many. pic.twitter.com/6ILdtSQF7o

— USA Gymnastics (@USAGym) July 28, 2021

Editor's note: This a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

DOJ declines to defend Mo Brooks in Eric Swalwell's Capitol riot lawsuit

The Department of Justice declined late Tuesday to represent Rep. Mo Brooks in a civil lawsuit against the Georgia congressman concerning the Capitol riot.

Why it matters: Brooks had argued he should have immunity in the suit, filed by Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) against him, former President Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr. and lawyer Rudy Giuliani over the insurrection. He said he was acting as a government employee when he spoke at a rally before the insurrection.

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