On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization officially classified COVID-19 as a pandemic. COVID-19 is impacting jails and prisons all over the United States. Check out this recent collection of links on the subject from The Sentencing Law and Policy blog. Notably, the BOP is now operating under modified procedures to prevent the spread of the virus. But, commentators have observed that responding to COVID-19 in jails and prisons will be extraordinarily challenging.
Given these rapidly-changing developments, and the direct impact of this health crisis on correctional systems, here are Some Release Arguments in the Time of COVID19.
Also, some courts have found the COVID-19 pandemic to be a new circumstance warranting reopening of detention and/or directly relevant to determining what bail conditions are necessary to reasonably ensure the defendant’s appearance and to protect the community. Take a look at these orders from the Southern District of New York, the District of Columbia, the Central District of California, and the Alaska Court of Appeals.
And consider these cases, finding the public health crisis relevant to release decisions in a wide range of contexts, including home confinement, self surrender, extradition, etc.:
- Xochihua-James v. Barr, No. 18-71460 (9th Cir. Mar. 23, 2020) (unpublished) (sua sponte releasing detainee from immigration detention “[I]n light of the rapidly escalating public health crisis”)
- United States v. Jaffee, No. 19-cr-88 (D.D.C. Mar. 26, 2020) (releasing defendant with criminal history in gun & drug case, citing “palpable” risk of spread in jail and “real” risk of “overburdening the jail’s healthcare resources”; “the Court is . . . convinced that incarcerating the defendant while the current COVID-19 crisis continues to expand poses a greater risk to community safety than posed by Defendant’s release to home confinement”)
- United States v Garlock, No. 18-CR-00418-VC-1, 2020 WL 1439980, at *1 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 25, 2020) (citing “chaos” inside federal prisons in sua sponte extending time to self-surrender: “[b]y now it almost goes without saying that we should not be adding to the prison population during the COVID-19 pandemic if it can be avoided”)
- United States v. Perez, No. 19 CR. 297 (PAE), 2020 WL 1329225, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 19, 2020) (releasing defendant due to the “heightened risk of dangerous complications should he contract COVID-19”)
- United States v. Stephens, 2020 WL 1295155, __F. Supp. 3d__ (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 19, 2020) (releasing defendant in light of “the unprecedented and extraordinarily dangerous nature of the COVID-19 pandemic”)
- In re Manrigue, 2020 WL 1307109 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 19, 2020) (“The risk that this vulnerable person will contract COVID-19 while in jail is a special circumstance that warrants bail.”)
- In re Request to Commute or Suspend County Jail Sentences, Docket No. 084230 (N.J. Mar. 22, 2020) (releasing large class of defendants serving time in county jail “in light of the Public Health Emergency” caused by COVID-19)
- United States v. Matthaei, No. 1:19-CV-00243-BLW, 2020 WL 1443227, at *1 (D. Idaho Mar. 16, 2020) (extending self-surrender date by 90 days in light of COVID-19)
- United States v. Barkman, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 45628 (D. Nev. Mar. 17, 2020) (suspending intermittent confinement because “[t]here is a pandemic that poses a direct risk if Mr. Barkman . . . is admitted to the inmate population of the Wahoe County Detention Facility”)
- United States v. Copeland, No. 2:05-cr-135-DCN (D.S.C. Mar. 24, 2020) (granting compassionate release to defendant in part due to “Congress’s desire for courts to release individuals the age defendant is, with the ailments that defendant has during this current pandemic”).
Finally, here is a brief filed in the Eastern District of California with a detailed statement of facts about COVID-19.
Don’t forget to check for updates on the Defender Services Office resource page – we linked to it here: Resource: Defender Services Office Creates Website On COVID-19