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March 13, 2020

Eager for stories and thoughts on the impact of the coronavirus on criminal justice, crime and punishment

Blogging will likely be light in the coming days as I go to pick up young adults from shuttered school and figure out what online teaching is going to look like in the foreseeable future.  While I have already blogged here and here on the potential impact of the coronavirus on prisons and jails, the movement toward mass closures of all sorts raises all sorts of new issues for criminal justice administration and broader realities of crime and punishment.  Here are just a few headlines starting to speak to these kinds of issues:

Though many folks likely have much more important things to do now than comment on a blog, I would still be eager to hear stories and thoughts from readers on what they see and predict as current and potential future impacts of the coronavirus on criminal justice, crime and punishment.

March 13, 2020 at 11:04 AM | Permalink


The current Coronavirus-19 fears and the extreme containment measures being implemented by out government officials cause me to review and consider the rarely invoked contract term, "Force Majeure", which I first became aware of in long-term coal supply contracts to power plants!

Posted by: James Gormley | Mar 13, 2020 11:39:34 AM

In am advised that this week in a federal case in Portland, Oregon, Chief Judge Marco Hernández varied downward from 12 months prison to three years probation with eight months house arrest, for two defendants (total offense level 13, crim hx category I in each case). He said on the record that he had been determined to sentence both defendants to prison and was only varying to probation not because of counsel's arguments but because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Posted by: Michael R. Levine | Mar 13, 2020 1:49:43 PM

In our local jail (Fayette County Detention Center, LexingtKentucky) all social visits from the families and friends of inmates have been cancelled until further notice (even though such visits occur thru glass and are not contact visits). Jail officials fear transmission of COVID-19 among those visitors waiting to see their friends (who sit together in a large waiting room for 30 minutes or longer) and family members (inmates) and the jail's staff. The jail has also prohibited outside volunteers from entering the jail, including a local physician who conducts A.A. meetings among the alcoholic inmates. Defense lawyers are trying to work with the prosecutors and Judges to get many pre-trial inmates who cannot afford to post their bonds released from the jail, due to the risk of contracting disease among a close together living inmate population. One problem is that the local Judges typically refuse to set any bond for those arrested on probation and parole violations, who make up about 40% of the jail's inmate population, despite the provisions of Sections 16 and 17 of the Kentucky Constitution and applicable case law. This jail was designed to hold about 1,250 inmates, but its population now frequently exceeds 1,500 on weekends, with extra inmates sleeping on mattresses on concrete floors in common areas. There is a civil rights lawsuit to be had here, if anyone is interested in filing it.

Posted by: James Gormley | Mar 14, 2020 11:46:18 AM

Prisons and jails are restricting visits to attorneys only. Jury trials are being rescheduled. For those in custody, arraignments are being handled by video conferencing. The larger dockets (small claims, arraignment dockets, landlord tenant, order of protections) are having cases continued. When possible court business and hearings are being done by video conference with the individual judges having discretion to continue non-urgent matters.

Posted by: tmm | Mar 16, 2020 10:35:29 AM

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