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March 17, 2020

Resources from the Prison Policy Initiative and the Appeal (and others) to track and advance responses to the COVID-19 pandemic

A helpful colleague from the Prison Policy Initiative sent me the following email with links to various resources for tracking and advancing responses to the on-going coronavirus epidemic:

The Prison Policy Initiative just released a new resource for writers covering COVID-19.  We’re now tracking which prisons and jails are taking appropriate steps to slow the spread of the coronavirus.  Check out this page, which we’ll be updating periodically.

On a slightly different topic: We’ve just published a template letter that local activists can use to pressure jails — most of which are currently suspending in-person visits — to help families stay connected by making phone and video calls free. See our letter at this link.

If you’re researching COVID-19 and our pages don’t have what you need, try this excellent resource page curated by The Justice Collaborative.   

UPDATE: I also receive a note for the folks at The Appeal about some terrific resources that the Appeal has put together to help track what local governments are actually doing or announcing (especially around prisons/jails):

The Coronavirus Response: Spotlight On State & Local Governments

This Tool Can Track Changes To Incarcerated Populations Amid The Coronavirus Pandemic

ANOTHER UPDATE: Steve Sady, Chief Deputy Federal Public Defender in Oregon, sent along this link to his helpful memo titled "Law in the Time of Corona: Federal Defense Edition." The memo reviews in short order how at "every stage of the criminal process," federal defense attorneys can and should seek to evaluate what they can do for clients past and present. Here are excerpts from some of the sentencing and prison discussions:

At sentencing, we can argue that judges should consider the safety of the client and others in prison in determining whether and how long to incarcerate. Vulnerability to physical attacks was recognized in the pre-Booker era when the Supreme Court approved a Second Circuit case that allowed departure under the mandatory Guidelines based on “potential for victimization” due to the defendant’s “diminutive size, immature appearance, and bisexual orientation.” Koon v. United States, 518 U.S. 81, 107 (1996) (citing United States v. Lara, 905 F.2d 599 (2d Cir. 1990)). Vulnerability to coronavirus, especially for our sick, disabled, and aged clients, seems like a direct analogy to vulnerability to victimization by others in prison and a reason for non-custodial or reduced sentences....

For prisoners serving a sentence who are within or approaching one year of their projected release date, we should be seeking maximum community corrections so they are no longer adding to the crowded and dangerous prisons. Under 18 U.S.C. 3624(c), Congress expanded the available time in community corrections to up to one year, with six months or ten percent, whichever is less, in home confinement....

The new compassionate release provisions of the First Step Act permit the sentencing court to reduce sentences based on “extraordinary and compelling reasons” under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A)(i) [background here]. The prisoners eligible for the reduction include the most vulnerable to coronavirus: the sick, the disabled, and the aged. In [one recent] opinion granting time served for an old lifer who had done 30 years, the judge considered as one of the factors favoring release physical vulnerability to attack (here). The same logic applies to vulnerability to coronavirus, both as a factor making the situation “extraordinary and compelling” and as a factor under 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) why the motion should be granted. We should be thinking creatively about other jurisdictional hooks for obtaining a second look at the sentences our clients are serving.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: From the always terrific Marshall Project, a coronavirus archive of stories, including a resource titled "Tracking Prisons’ Response to Coronavirus"

March 17, 2020 at 05:29 PM | Permalink

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In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB