Resource: COVID-19 and Release Arguments

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  • Xochihua-James v. Barr, No. 18-71460 (9th Cir. Mar. 23, 2020) (unpublished) (sua sponte releasing detainee from immigration detention “[I]n light of the rapidly escalating public health crisis”)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

 

Resource: OIG Report On BOP’s Treatment Of Female Inmates

The Bureau of Prisons initiated a review of its management of female inmates in response to concerns raised by Congress and public interest groups over possible deficiencies in how BOP treated female inmates. The review was conducted by the Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General (OIG).

The sixty-page report released last month made these findings:

  • BOP institutions are not complying with policies for female inmates, specifically the Female Offender Manual, which was issued in November 2016 but has not yet been fully implemented.
  • BOP has inadequate staffing at the office that oversees management of female inmates.
  • BOP is failing to adequately implement programming for female inmates specifically in areas of trauma and pregnancy.
    • The report stated that 90% of the female prison population has experienced physical or emotional trauma. While BOP has trauma programs, the wait is too long.
    • Only 37% of pregnant inmates received the pregnancy programming even though spots were available. OIG attributed the problem largely to the lack of social workers at BOP institutions as social workers must refer inmates to the programs.
  • BOP is not providing adequate feminine hygiene products to female inmates.

The report also contained some interesting facts:

  • Most female and male inmates are in BOP for drug crimes but female inmates are less likely to be convicted of weapons, sex or other violent offenses.
  • The median sentence for female inmates is 5 years while it is ten for men.
  • Nearly all female inmates are classified as low or minimum security.
  • There is no medium security classification for female inmates.

BOP also highlighted four programs available to female inmates:

(1) The Resolve program for female inmates with a history of trauma-related mental illness. It lasts 40 weeks.

(2) The Female Integrated Treatment program (FIT) for trauma, substance abuse and mental health. This is only available at the low security facility in Danbury. 

(3) Mothers and Infants Nurturing Together Program (MINT) in which female inmates may stay with their babies for up to 6 months after birth.

(4) The Residential Parenting Program in Gig Harbor, where female inmates may stay with their babies for up to 30 months after birth.