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August 5, 2020

Advocacy groups urge Congress to include provisions to safeguard incarcerated persons in latest COVID bill

COVID19-State-Prisons-5AUG20-2048x1152A variety of leading advocacy groups sent this detailed letter to congressional leaders yesterday to advocate for "critical provisions to protect the health and safety of incarcerated individuals in the COVID-19 response package currently being negotiated."  Here is a portion of the first part of the six-page letter:

While the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act expanded the Federal Bureau of Prison’s (BOP) authority to release individuals to home confinement, BOP and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have failed to exercise this authority. BOP and DOJ have been negligent in meeting Congress’ charge to quickly and safely reduce the prison population and minimize the spread and harm of COVID-19 for incarcerated persons and correctional staff.  Therefore, more is urgently required to address the alarmingly high infection rates occurring in correctional facilities across the nation.

As Congress works to provide additional relief for individuals impacted by the pandemic, it has a moral obligation to extend that relief to all of our most vulnerable — the elderly, the sick, those without medical care, and those unable to protect themselves from the virus — including those who are incarcerated.  We urge you to prioritize the health and wellbeing of incarcerated people and their families by incorporating the five recommendations outlined below in the next stimulus package.

The letter closes with detailed advocacy for these five action items:

It is therefore absolutely critical that Congress act swiftly to address the issues facing incarcerated individuals in the next COVID-19 relief package.  At a minimum, such legislation should include:

1. Provisions that will dramatically reduce pretrial and prison populations....

2. An expansion of court authority to release individuals in BOP Custody....

3. Increases in the availability of home detention for elderly people....

4. Provisions that facilitate essential communication with counsel....

5. Additional support at the federal, state, and local level to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus....

UPDATE: I just saw this notable new posting by The Council of State Governments Justice Center which highlights the continued urgency of these issues (and has the graphic I have added to this post).  The analysis is titled "COVID-19 Cases in State Prisons Grew by 12 Percent Every Week Last Month," and here is how it begins:

A new analysis by The Council of State Governments Justice Center shows that states are continuing to battle the growing spread of COVID-19 in their correctional facilities, with the number of positive cases in prisons rising 12 percent each week over the last month.

While states with some of the largest prison populations — such as Texas, California, Florida, Georgia, and Ohio—are seeing cases increase, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Delaware appear to have the highest proportion of COVID-19 infections among people incarcerated in their state prisons.

The following graph shows how the total number of cases is growing in state prisons across the country, and the maps below offer state-by-state data on how the virus is taking shape in these facilities.

August 5, 2020 at 10:16 AM | Permalink


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