As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday during this most challenging of years for the nation, our clients, and the profession, I reflect on how grateful I am to be a part of the NACDL family, and how honored I am to serve as the Association’s president. As by now you are well aware, NACDL leadership and professional staff is fully focused on providing you, the nation’s criminal defense lawyers and Liberty’s Last Champions, with the support, educational programming, and advocacy that elevates NACDL’s mission and translates directly into highly-effective service to all of our clients and to the cause of justice. As the pandemic is now well into its worst phase thus far in the United States, I would also like to take this opportunity to remind you of COVID-related resources that NACDL has aggregated and made available to aid in our individual and collective advocacy.
Back in early March, NACDL called for action to stave off a then-potential, now-confirmed catastrophe facing the more than two million incarcerated individuals in this nation. On March 4, 2020, at about the time the nation reached and exceeded 100 known cases of COVID-19, NACDL issued a “Call for Prompt Implementation of Comprehensive, Concrete, and Transparent COVID-19 Coronavirus Readiness Plans for Nation’s Prisons, Jails, and Other Detention Facilities.” Shortly thereafter, in mid-March, NACDL’s professional staff, with significant content contributions from you, NACDL’s membership, established the NACDL Coronavirus Resource. More than 34,000 visits later, this resource has provided and continues to offer model motions, pleadings, rulings, and other court papers; NACDL statements, reports, and webinars; materials and court papers relevant to court reopenings; joint advocacy letters and platforms; information concerning financial assistance for small businesses; international legal materials; and various additional resources for the criminal justice community linked from scores of organizations and agencies. If you have any items, court papers, or other resources that you think would make a good addition to the NACDL Coronavirus Resource, please send those to NACDL’s Senior Director of Public Affairs & Communications Ivan J. Dominguez at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On March 19, NACDL issued its Statement of Principles and Further Call to Action Concerning COVID-19 in the face of unprecedented threats, now borne out, to the criminal legal system and those detained by and working within it. Then on May 9, NACDL announced its Supplemental Statement of Principles and Further Call to Action Concerning COVID-19 and America’s Criminal Justice System regarding the overcriminalization of public health order violations related to the COVID-19 pandemic. By June, after much study by NACDL’s Task Force on Court Reopenings, NACDL released its Statement of Principles and Report, Criminal Court Reopening and Public Health in the COVID-19 Era, with science-backed evidence supporting NACDL’s position that jury trials are not safe until the COVID-19 pandemic is under control. This NACDL report has been repeatedly used and cited in courtrooms and by the press covering the dangers associated with court reopenings during this uncontrolled pandemic.
Not only can you continue to aid in NACDL’s efforts during this challenging time by sending in materials to add to NACDL Coronavirus Resource, but your assistance is also urgently needed by NACDL’s Return to Freedom Project. This is a concrete way in which you can give of your time and expertise to help an eligible incarcerated individual secure freedom and safety during this pandemic. Return to Freedom Project initiatives -- all of which provide training and support to pro bono volunteers -- that could really use your help include the Virginia Redemption Project and the Federal and DC Compassionate Release Projects. You can learn about all of NACDL’s Return to Freedom Project initiatives at https://www.nacdl.org/Freedom.
And our work is far from done. We must redouble our efforts. Nearly 260,000 people in America have died from COVID-19 in nine months. And, according to the New York Times, “[a]s of mid-November, more than 196,600 coronavirus infections had been reported among state and federal prisoners [and] more than 1,450 of those prisoners had died.”
I am so very grateful to you and to NACDL this Thanksgiving. It is through your continued strength and support during these uncertain times that NACDL will continue to deliver at the highest level. So this Thanksgiving please consider sending in content for the NACDL Coronavirus Resource, volunteering for NACDL’s Return to Freedom Project, and/or supporting the NACDL Foundation for Criminal Justice.
Best wishes to you and yours,
Christopher W. Adams