Resource: Senate Judiciary Committee Testimony on Best Practices for Incarceration and Detention During COVID-19

The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing today, June 2, to examine best practices for incarceration and detention in the time of COVID-19.

Particularly noteworthy is the Joint Testimony of two BOP officials: Michael D. Carvajal, Director of BOP, and Dr. Jeffery Allen, the BOP’s Medical Director.  Much of the testimony addresses the criticism of BOP’s pandemic response, which Carvajal and Allen claim has “been based on misinformation” about how BOP is actually handling things.

Take a close look at the last section, addressing how the BOP is handling home confinement:

“As the pandemic grew more widespread, the Bureau began aggressively screening the inmate population for inmates who were appropriate for transfer to RRC or Home Confinement for service of the remainder of their sentences. On March 26, 2020 and April 3, 2020, Attorney General Barr issued memoranda to the Bureau directing us to increase the use of Home Confinement, particularly at institutions that were markedly affected by COVID-19, for vulnerable inmates. The CARES Act, signed by President Trump on March 27, 2020, further expanded our ability to place inmates on Home Confinement by lifting the statutory limitations contained in Title 18 U.S.C. § 3624(c)(2) during the course of the pandemic. I am pleased to note that we currently have 6,120 inmates in RRC and 6,398 on Home Confinement. This is an 124% increase in HC from March 26, 2020. There are an additional 985 who are scheduled to transfer to Home Confinement in the coming weeks. While we continue to make robust strides in these placements to reduce risk of spread to the inmate population and staff, public health and safety must remain our highest priority. The Attorney General has issued guidance as to which inmates should be considered for home confinement. Staff are conducting individualized assessments to ensure inmates are appropriate for community placement both from a public safety perspective and given their own specific needs and circumstances. Additionally, we must ensure inmates who release to Home Confinement have a viable residence in which to reside.

It should go without saying that while we are dedicated to the protection of our inmates’ health and safety, we also have to consider—as the Attorney General’s guidance emphasized—that inmates who presented a risk of public safety because of their criminal acts or other factors cannot be released. Neither can we release inmates who would be worse off outside Bureau facilities than inside, such as those whose medical conditions could not be adequately cared for by health systems that are themselves overwhelmed by the response to COVID infections in the general community. Nor can we release inmates who do not have safe housing for themselves or housing that is not subject to appropriate safeguards for home confinement, which is still, after all, a form of incarceration for persons convicted of crimes whereby such persons are still serving a federal sentence.”

 

 

 

 

Practice Tip: Data-Driven Filings in the Time of COVID-19

As we make release arguments in light of COVID-19, consider using data visualizations in your filings to advance the cause.

Check out the charts and graphs developed, and updated daily, by The Federal Defenders of New York, using data from the BOP’s website:  www.bop.gov/coronavirus

But there is good reason to believe the numbers reported by the BOP understate the actual number of tested-positive cases. When using BOP data, make sure to keep in mind that just because a facility isn’t listed on the BOP website does not mean there are no presumptive positive or clinically confirmed cases in that facility.

The Prison Policy Initiative is aggregating information about the criminal justice system and COVID-19.

Other sources of COVID-19 data and statistics can be found here. This is a website maintained by Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering; they are tracking the COVID-19 spread in real time on an interactive dashboard with data available for download.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also provides daily updates on the cumulative numbers of COVID-19 cases in the United States.

Data about COVID-19 cases in Colorado is updated daily by the Department of Health.

 

Resource: District of Colorado Enters General Order Authorizing Video or Telephone Conferencing in Certain Criminal Proceedings

The District of Colorado continues to respond to the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on the functioning of federal courts. 

On April 6, 2020, Chief Judge Philip A. Brimmer entered a General Order, pursuant to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”), authorizing judges in the district, with the consent of the defendant after consultation with counsel, to use video teleconferencing, or telephone conferencing if video teleconferencing is not reasonably available, for a number of criminal proceedings.   The specific hearings covered are listed in the General Order, and include felony pleas under Rule 11 and felony sentencings under Rule 32 “if judges in individual cases find, for specific reasons, that felony pleas or sentencings in those cases cannot be further delayed without serious harm to the interests of justice[.]”

This General Order will remain in place for 90 days “unless terminated earlier.” 

A previously-entered General Order describing COVID-19-related changes to court operations (in place through May 1, 2020) can be found here.

 

News You Can Use: Recent developments in home confinement in the age of COVID-19

The number of positive-COVID-19 cases in the BOP continues to rise.

As of this morning the BOP reports  138 inmates and 59 staff have tested positive for the virus. The BOP updates this data every afternoon.

On March 26, 2020, Attorney General Barr issued a memorandum to the Director of BOP, outlining a new policy by the United States Department of Justice to deal with confined inmates who are most vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus.  Barr directed BOP to use home confinement “where appropriate, to protect the health and safety of BOP personnel and the people in our custody.” 

Despite that step, barriers remained to release.

On April 1, 2020, the Federal Public & Community Defenders Legislative Committee wrote a letter to AG Barr and urged him to exercise his authority under the CARES Act to allow the BOP to transfer more people to the “relative safety of home confinement.”

On April 3, 2020 (after 7 deaths in BOP custody and uncontained spread in multiple facilities), AG Barr made a CARES-Act finding that “emergency conditions are materially affecting the functioning of the Bureau of Prisons.” He told the BOP to review all inmates with COVID-19 risk factors, starting with FCI Oakdale, FCI Danbury, and FCI Oakton (and “similarly situated” facilities), and to transfer “suitable candidates for home confinement” to home confinement.

The memo directs the BOP to “be guided by the factors in [Barr’s] March 26 Memorandum,” which drastically limits the number of people prioritized for home confinement.  But it also says all inmates with “a suitable confinement plan will generally be appropriate candidates for home confinement rather than continued detention at institutions in which COVID-19 is materially affecting their operations.”

On April 5, 2020, the BOP issued a press release responding to AG Barr’s April 3 memorandum.  BOP says it is reviewing all inmates to determine which ones meet the criteria established by the Attorney General.  While inmates do not need to apply to be considered for home confinement, any inmate who believes they are eligible may request to be referred to Home Confinement and provide a release plan to their Case Manager.

TAKEAWAYS

If you have a client who might be a candidate for home confinement, don’t wait for the BOP to identify them.  Now is the time to figure out a release plan and bring eligibility to the attention of the Case Manager.

The BOP is using the eligibility criteria established by AG Barr as a benchmark for home-confinement determinations:

(1) The age and vulnerability of the inmate to COVID-19;

(2) The security level of the facility;

(3) The inmate’s conduct in prison;

(4) The inmate’s score under PATTERN;

(5) The inmate’s release plan; and

(6) The inmate’s crime of conviction and assessment of danger posed to the community.

But remember that list of criteria is not exhaustive; the BOP must consider the “totality of the circumstances.”

Inmates deemed suitable for home confinement must be immediately processed for transfer out of BOP, but there is still a required 14-day quarantine before the transfer can happen.  Note that AG Barr (in the April 3 memorandum) gave the BOP discretion “on a case-by-case” basis to allow an inmate to quarantine outside the BOP facility “in the residence to which the inmate is being transferred.”

 

 

Resource and Practice Tips: Defender Services Office Training Division announces video presentation on COVID-19 & Pretrial Release

The Administrative Office of the United States Courts, Defender Services Office Training Division has announced that a newly recorded presentation is currently available for viewing on www.fd.org.

This pre-recorded session, COVID-19 & Pretrial Release, is presented by Miles Pope, Assistant Federal Defender, Federal Defender Services of Idaho.

This presentation reviews core principles of constructing effective bail strategies to obtaining our clients’ release from custody during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. As this is a rapidly evolving area of law – and as we are constantly improving our arguments as courts issue rulings and we learn how to deal with the government’s responses to our arguments on protecting our clients’ health – viewers are encouraged to explore the resources regularly being posted on fd.org.

REGISTRATION, VIEWING VIDEO & MATERIALS

To view the presentation, you will need to register for the video. To register, you will need log in credentials for the password protected part of www.fd.org.

For panel attorneys, if you have already applied and been approved for log in credentials, you also have access to the password protected portions of www.fd.org.

For panel attorneys who have not already applied for log in credentials, you will need to do so before you can view the video. In order to apply for credentials, fill out the online application available at this link: http://cjaresources.fd.org/pl_cjaverify.aspx.

Once your application has been approved you will receive an email from “Defender Services Office” with instructions on how to set your password. Once you have taken those steps, you will be able to log in and view the video. It may take several days for you to receive the email.

LINKS TO VIDEO AND MATERIALS

Please use this password-protected link to view the video: https://www.fd.org/program-materials/tips-getting-your-client-released-detention-during-pandemic-covid-19-pretrial.

Materials associated with this presentation and other COVID-19 issues, can be found by clicking here.

 

Resource: Webinar – Expanding Pretrial Release in the Age of COVID-19, April 1, 2020

The ABA is hosting a Zoom webinar tomorrow, April 1, 2020 at 4 pm Eastern / 2 pm Mountain time exploring efforts to seek expanded release, in response to COVID-19, for those detained pretrial. The webinar is sponsored by the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants, the ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice, and the ABA Criminal Justice Section. 

You can register for it here.

Resource: Webinar – Due Process Challenges in a Time of Crisis, March 31, 2020

due process

The Due Process Institute is hosting a webinar tomorrow, March 31, 2020 at 3 pm ET (1 pm Mountain Time) to address criminal justice litigation challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to its website: “The mission of the Due Process Institute is to honor, preserve, and restore those Constitutional rights intended to protect individuals and organizations against the arbitrary exercise of government power. This mission of procedural fairness is a vital one given the erosion of these rights in recent decades. Importantly, due process concerns transcend liberal/conservative labels and therefore we focus on achievable results based on core principles and values that are shared by all Americans.”

Click here to register for the webinar.

 

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: The Basics of Community Corrections Litigation in the Time of COVID-19

Many of you are eager to explore community corrections options for clients who are incarcerated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To that end,  The Sentencing Resource Counsel for the Federal Public and Community Defenders offers up a great resource–Community Corrections Basics. This document contains ideas and options about how to transfer clients to community corrections (halfway house/reentry centers or home confinement) to serve the remainder of their sentences so that they are not incarcerated during the pandemic. Note: we are not talking here about compassionate release, which is an actual reduction of sentence under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1). If a person is granted compassionate release, they are no longer serving their term of imprisonment.  

The potential beneficiaries for increased time in community corrections are clients who are eligible for community corrections but are scheduled to receive less than the maximum statutory time available under 18 USC 3624(c). Section 3624(c) provides that eligible clients can receive up to one year of community corrections in reentry centers, with the lesser of six months or ten percent of the sentence in home confinement. Notably, the Senate just passed the CARES Act to permit the BOP Director to lengthen the time of permitted home confinement. It is expected to also pass the House tomorrow and be signed by the President.

 

 

Resource: Defender Services Office Creates Website On COVID-19

The coronavirus (COVID-19) is impacting almost all sectors and areas of the United States. The Defender Services Office and the Administrative Office of the United States Courts have created a website with resources concerning the new COVID-19, including: (1) Courts Orders and procedures regarding Judiciary operations from various districts; (2) motions and pleadings addressing concerns and sharing best practices for mitigating the harm of COVID-19 for those impacted by the Federal criminal justice system; (3) links to other resources and information concerning COVID-19.  Note: The resources on the DSO website are not specific to judicial districts in the Tenth Circuit but serve as a good point of departure for best practices during this challenging time.

General orders about COVID-19-related changes to operations and practices in the Tenth Circuit and the District of Colorado can be found  here and here.