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Xochihua-James v. Barr, No. 18-71460 (9th Cir. Mar. 23, 2020) (unpublished) (sua sponte releasing detainee from immigration detention “[I]n light of the rapidly escalating public health crisis”)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