Coronavirus Resources

NACDL to Focus on Service and Support for Members, Clients, and Community Throughout Virus Emergency

According to the Prison Policy Initiative, "[t]he American criminal justice system holds almost 2.3 million people in 1,719 state prisons, 109 federal prisons, 1,772 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,163 local jails, and 80 Indian Country jails as well as in military prisons, immigration detention facilities, civil commitment centers, state psychiatric hospitals, and prisons in the U.S. territories." These are not fixed populations. As recently as 2017, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), more than 10 million people a year, or close to 1 million people a month, are admitted into America’s jails alone — jails that averaged an overall weekly inmate turnover rate of 54%. Some 20% of America’s jails operated at or above 100% capacity at mid-year 2017. And according to a 2015 BJS special report, a 2011-12 survey revealed that "an estimated 40% of state and federal prisoners and jail inmates reported having a current chronic medical condition[.]" The far-reaching challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic not only implicate the health, safety, and welfare of more than two million incarcerated individuals, but also extend to the functioning of America's courts, individuals' access to counsel, and concerns about eroding liberties in this nation, among other matters.

On this Coronavirus Resources page, NACDL is aggregating its statements and messages; motions, pleadings, rulings, and other court papers related to COVID-19 and at-risk clients; advocacy letters on which NACDL is a signatory; various resources from across the criminal justice community; and news of interest on the intersection of criminal justice and the coronavirus. Indeed, on this page you will find sections linking to End Incarceration's tracking of changes to incarcerated populations across the country, Courthouse News Service's and the Brennan Center for Justice's tracking of changes and responses of federal and state courts nationwide, and The Marshall Project's tracking of prisons' responses to the virus, including changes to visitation rules, among many other resources.

NACDL has created this Coronavirus Resources page as a public service and thanks its members and others who provided motions, pleadings, rulings, and other court papers that other attorneys can use in their advocacy on behalf of their at-risk clients in the context of this pandemic. In addition, NACDL thanks the numerous organizations who have posted the useful resources that are linked to here. 

This page is a living resource that will be constantly updated. If you know of or have resources to share (of the nature included on this page) that you think would be useful to criminal defense lawyers and criminal justice reform advocates, as well as the media and the public, please send them to NACDL Senior Director of Public Affairs and Communications Ivan J. Dominguez at idominguez@nacdl.org.

Disclaimer: This Coronavirus Resources page provides practice material submitted or shared by members and non-members of NACDL, as well as external links to reliable sources, and more. NACDL does not endorse or verify the content of third party materials posted here and advises all to check that the law is current and relevant to their jurisdiction.

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NACDL Statements, Messages, and Positions

Motions, Pleadings, Rulings, and Other Court Papers Related to Covid-19 and at-risk Clients

Attempts to Shut Down Lawyers

  • On March 19, 2020, Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania issued a Proclamation ordering the closure of "non-life sustaining" businesses, with enforcement effective at 12:01 a.m. on March 21. Governor Wolf's Proclamation was accompanied by a list of life sustaining businesses that may remain open​. According to that list, legal services were deemed by the Governor to not be a "life sustaining" business and, thus, subject to the closure order. NACDL Past President and Philadelphia Attorney Theodore "Ted" Simon on March 19, 2020, undertook to write a letter to Governor Wolf to explain that the services of criminal defense lawyers are constitutionally-mandated Services under the U.S. and Pennsylvania Constitutions and must not be subject to his closure order. Simon attached to his letter the March 18, 2020, Pennsylvania Supreme Court Order deeming various criminal defense lawyer functions as essential. Additionally, Simon also spoke with and provided his letter to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts (AOPC). After Ted Simon's letter was delivered, on March 20, 2020, the AOPC issued guidance clarifying that "restricted access to law offices and facilities by legal professionals, staff, and clients is permitted to the degree necessary to allow attorneys to participate in court functions deemed essential by a President Judge per the Supreme Court’s order of March 18, 2020, so long as social distancing and other mitigation measures are employed for the protection of lawyers, staff, and clients. Pursuant to the governor’s order, all other business must be conducted remotely; necessary retrieval of files or other materials should be accomplished expeditiously." That guidance was approved by Pennsylvania's Office of General Counsel. Not content, Simon asked for further guidance from the AOPC to include federal representation in the various federal courts. Thereafter, the AOPC issued the following, providing that the closure applied "Except as required to allow attorneys to participate in court functions deemed essential by a president judge per the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's order of March 18, 2020, or similar federal court directive, and lawyers may access their offices to effectuate such functions and directives."

Public Defense Compensation (CJA)

Joint advocacy letters & Platforms

  • Coalition Letter to Congressional Leadership on Elderly Home Detention in COVID-19 Aid (March 2020) ("Coalition letter to Senate and House leadership regarding the technical fix to properly expand the Elderly Home Detention Pilot Program under the First Step Act (S. 3035, 2020), for inclusion in a relief package responding to the coronavirus pandemic.")

  • Recommendations to Congress to Protect Incarcerated People During the COVID-19 Pandemic (March 2020) ("Recommendations for Congress compiled by members of the Justice Roundtable for inclusion in legislation addressing COVID-19 conditions around the country, particularly in U.S. detention facilities for individuals incarcerated and working with that population.")

  • Humane Outbreak Response: Humanity Not Cages: Demanding a Just and Humane Response to Outbreak ("This platform addresses our demands of how public and private actors within the criminal legal system should respond to the inevitable COVID-19 outbreak in prisons, jails, courthouses and immigrant detention centers throughout the United States. These recommendations were crafted in part by the work activists, legal experts, and directly impacted people over the course of some years. We hope that this framework can act as a guideline for activists, advocates and electeds who wish to fight for massive reduction in this nation’s incarcerated population, while also looking towards strategic, timely and humane response to alleviate the impact COVID-19 will have on incarcerated people.")

  • Coalition Letters Dated March 23, 2020, to the National Governors Association, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and the National Sheriffs' Association ("The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and over 150 other groups called upon the National Governors Association (NGA), U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM), and the National Sheriff’s Association (NSA) to act immediately to help stem the tide of Covid-19. In letters sent to the three organizations, the groups urge them to use their authority to reasonably release people from prisons and jails to protect the lives of the more than 2.2 million people nationwide who are currently incarcerated, including more than 600,000 individuals in local jails. The groups also offer guidelines designed to keep incarcerated individuals, correctional officers, and their communities as safe, healthy, and virus-free as possible during this time of national and global crisis[.]")

NACDL Webinar

  • Compassionate Release and Second Looks: Early Release Opportunities Under the First Step Act ("Long underused and unfairly applied by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, federal compassionate release is seeing a revival under the First Step Act. That law not only corrected many of the flaws in the way the BOP handled compassionate release requests, but allows prisoners direct access to the courts. The new law clarifies the broad range of circumstances related to age, illness, and family circumstances that might trigger eligibility for relief and further opens up exciting new opportunities to seek reconsideration of sentences that are no longer appropriate for a variety of other reasons. Learn the ins and outs of this expanded mechanism for sentencing relief from three leading experts in the field: Mary Price (FAMM), Peter Goldberger (Attorney, Ardmore, PA), and Shon Hopwood (Georgetown University Law Center)." Shon Hopwood's discussion of 'Second Look' compassionate release begins at 51m15s. Also, here is a link to "Second Looks & Second Chances" by Shon Hopwood, Cardozo Law Review)

Additional Resources for the Criminal Justice Community

American Bar Association
  • March 27, 2020, Webinar: New Jersey COVID-19 Jail Release AgreementNew Jersey COVID-19 Jail Release Agreement ("On Sunday, March 22, 2020, the Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court entered an Order providing for the commutation or suspension of many county jail sentences. The Order, which was expected to result in the release of 1000 people, was entered upon agreement by the Attorney General, the County Prosecutors Association, the Public Defender and the ACLU. This webinar will feature many of the key players to discuss the actual terms of the Order, how they came to agreement and how this agreement might serve as a model for decreasing jail populations to limit the spread of COVID-19 in other states.")

ACLU
American Diabetes Association
  • Dear Detention Center Letter ("The American Diabetes Association, in its position as a global authority on diabetes and author of the Standards of Care for Diabetes, writes to share information that is important for facilities that detain people under criminal or civil law during the COVID-19 pandemic.")

American Immigration Lawyers Association
  • Resource Center: 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) ("AILA is actively engaging with government agencies to obtain the latest information and guidance on how agencies will operate in response to COVID-19.  Updates will be posted below as they become available.”)

AJA (American Jail Association)
  • COVID-19 Resources ("The American Jail Association has compiled this list of resources on the coronavirus (COVID-19). We will continue to update this page as more information becomes available. If you have policies or procedures on dealing with this or other infectious diseases that you believe would benefit fellow corrections professionals, please contact AJA for instructions on how to get that information to us to share.")

The Appeal
Brennan Center for Justice
CCLP (Center for Children’s Law and Policy)
  • COVID-19 Resources ("We are compiling and updating a list of statements from leading organizations on the need to (1) release as many youth as possible from facilities and (2) limit the use of isolation, and (3) ensure that youth have access to engaging programming, supportive staff, and contact with families via video or phone.")

Collateral Consequences Resource Center
  • COVID-19: State-by-state resources on how to use the pardon power (“…[N]ewly revised pardon resources [for] advocates and policy makers to support their advocacy and action. While our pardon-related research focuses primarily on how the power is used to restore rights and status to those who are no longer in prison, much of our information about how the pardon process is structured and operates is relevant to how the power might be used (or is already being used) to commute prison sentences during the pandemic.”)

Courthouse News Service
  • Courthouse COVID-19 Measures ("Comprehensively tracking changes and responses from Federal and State courts; landing page provides links to information on the federal circuit courts and U.S. Supreme Court, while the bottom rail allows one to choose a state to access links to U.S. District Courts in that state as well as the state court systems changes and responses, where available")

#Cut50
Department of Justice
End Incarceration ​
EXiT: Executives Transforming Probation & Parole
Expert Institute
  • The Latest COVID-19 Court Closures and Restrictions ("To keep you abreast of how the courts are handling COVID-19, we’ve compiled a list of all court closures and related restriction announced for federal and state courts across the country. We’ll continue to update this list as additional news is announced.")

Fair and Just Prosecution
FAMM (Families Against Mandatory Minimums)  
  • They Can’t Wait: FAMM’s Response to COVID-19 ("In response to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, FAMM is encouraging all people in federal prison who are most vulnerable to immediately apply for early release. FAMM is also encouraging state and local governments to use their authority to release sick and elderly people as quickly as possible.”)
Federal Bureau of Prisons
Federal Public & Community Defenders
Fees and Fines Justice Center
The Justice Collaborative
  • COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Response & Resources ("At The Justice Collaborative, we are creating this Response & Resources page to share essential information, proposed policies, and other resources for activists, public officials, and journalists to help them — and all of us — confront this pandemic with a recognition of our shared vulnerability.")
Justice Roundtable
The Marshall Project
National Association for Public Defense
  • COVID-19 Resources ("This page is divided into two separate tables, you can jump to either table by clicking on the name: Practice Related Materials - This table is for practice-related materials such as motions, judicial orders, affidavits, etc. Resources and Solutions - This table is for potential solutions to challenges outside of direct legal practice such as remote working tools, mental health/wellness resources, and community interaction.")

National Center for State Courts
National Commission on Correctional Health Care
National Conference of State Legislatures
National District Attorneys Association
  • District Attorney Offices’ Response To Coronavirus (Covid-19) (Providing information on jurisdictions across the nation. "Dates Submitted: March 13-March 25, 2020 *Responses are subject to changes*" As this is a pdf, please check the NDAA website, linked from the heading of this subsection, for further updates.)

National Juvenile Justice Network
National Sheriffs’ Association
New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association
New York City Bar Association
New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NYSACDL)
No Kids In Prison
NYU School of Law Center on the Administration of Criminal Law
Penal Reform International
Pretrial Justice Institute
Prison Policy Initiative
  • Responses to the COVID-19 pandemic ("Public health officials, the CDC, and WHO have explained the importance of social distancing, isolation, and quarantine in order to 'flatten the curve' of the COVID-19, or coronavirus, pandemic. Unfortunately, the fact that local jails and prisons are 'amplifiers of infectious diseases' is often left out of virus planning, so we — and others — have been calling for urgent action.")

United States Courts
  • Judiciary Preparedness for Coronavirus (COVID-19) ("Federal courts are individually coordinating with state and local health officials to obtain local information about the coronavirus (COVID-19), and some have issued orders relating to court business, operating status, and public and employee safety.")

Vera Institute of Justice
  • Coronavirus Guidance for the Criminal and Immigration Legal Systems ("Five briefs that provide guidance to government actors on how they should respond to the Coronavirus to keep justice-involved people, system practitioners, and our communities healthy and safe. These factsheets are aimed at: police; prosecutors and the courts; jails, prisons, and secure facilities; probation and parole; and immigration.")

Wisconsin State Public Defenders