During this difficult and confusing time, we must now think of the most vulnerable populations in the criminal justice system and how best to protect them from COVID-19. Jails and prisons are the perfect locations for this virus to spread like wildfire. There is overcrowding, subpar sanitation procedures, and severely lacking health care systems in place in these institutions. If the virus gets spread in any of the jails or prisons it will cause a severe outbreak within the incarcerated population.
We are already seeing rapidly alarming signs of spreading in New York State. Rikers Island Jail had two positive cases of COVID-19 on March 18, 2020. Fast forward 6 days and there were 52 inmates and 30 guards that tested positive. This should be a warning sign for all states in regards to what can and could inevitably happen in their jails and prisons. Steps need to be taken to protect those most vulnerable by reducing the inmate population, safeguarding correction officers, and any limiting courthouse employees that may come into contact with the inmate population.
Some Florida counties have taken measures to lower the jail population. For instance, Lake County released 44 nonviolent inmates, who were arrested on misdemeanor charges, in an effort to keep the jail population down. Hillsborough County released 164 inmates who could not afford to bail out of jail. Other Florida counties are reporting significantly lower arrest rates with many law enforcement officers using discretion when deciding to arrest and trying to move towards a citation-first approach.
As a result of the ongoing pandemic, the Governor and local government agencies need to take action when dealing with those most vulnerable in the criminal justice system. If you or anyone you know is dealing with issues related to being incarcerated during this pandemic and are in need of assistance, please call an attorney at KJ LAW to discuss your legal remedies. We are here to help during these unprecedented times.
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