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

NACDL Webinars

  • Criminal Court Reopening in the COVID-19 Era (Featuring NACDL's Task Force on Criminal Court Reopening: Nina Ginsberg, Stephen Ross Johnson, Todd Pugh, and Martín Sabelli, "As the Task Force reported: ‘…the unprecedented public health risks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic present enormous challenges for court operations especially in criminal matters where liberty, and in some venues, life are at stake.' While the spread of the virus has made ‘business as usual’ impossible, ‘[F]rom a legal perspective there can be no justice when fundamental constitutional rights are suspended or curtailed.' Members of the Task Force, who practice in courts across the country, discuss the reopening of courts during the COVID-19 pandemic, including strategies and information to help lawyers uphold their clients constitutional rights while navigating the challenges that arise during this unprecedented time") (NACDL's June 4 Report: Criminal Court Reopening and Public Health in the COVID-19 Era)

  • Sikich Business Briefing: SBA and PPP Loan Updates (Featuring Andy Powell, CPA, Partner, Sikich LLP. Webinar Description: "Our experts have been closely monitoring legislation changes relative to COVID-19 and are prepared to help your organization through these challenges. Learn how SBA and PPP loan guidance is evolving with important classifications as of April 29, 2020.")

  • The HR Perspective on Federal COVID-19 Responses (Featuring Lisa Boss, MS, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, The HR Team, "The Federal government has acted quickly to provide resources for individuals and businesses in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the CARES Act created opportunities for employers to continue to pay their employees, increased state unemployment benefits, added items eligible for FSA/HSA/HRA reimbursements, and altered requirements for 401(k) loans and withdrawals. This webinar will answer some of your questions on how to utilize the available options to best support your business and your employees.") (Supporting Materials are available here.)

  • 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)

Compassionate Release Clearinghouse

Materials Relevant to Court Reopenings

  • June 4, 2020, NACDL Report: Criminal Court Reopening and Public Health in the COVID-19 Era

  • NACDL News Release: Nation’s Criminal Defense Bar: Jury Trials Not Safe Until COVID-19 Pandemic Under Control (June 4, 2020)

  • NACDL News Release: Nation’s Criminal Defense Bar Alarmed by ‘Rush to Resume Normal Court Operations’ During Escalating Pandemic (July 24, 2020)

  • NACDL Webinar: Criminal Court Reopening in the COVID-19 Era (June 25, 2020)

  • Arizona: May 1, 2020, COVID-19 Continuity of Court Operations During a Public Health Emergency Workgroup Best Practice Recommendations 

  • California: Motion Challenging Mendocino, Calif., Superior Court “Socially Distanced” Trial Procedures (“The social distancing procedures in Mendocino County violate the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Corresponding Provisions of the California State Constitution.") (Courtesy of Jeffrey A. Aaron)

  • Northern District of California: July 23, 2020, Gen. Order 72-5 re COVID and the Court (“No new jury trial will be conducted through September 30, 2020. Any jury trial currently scheduled to commence before October 1, 2020, will be postponed or vacated.”)

  • Florida: May 11, 2020, Supreme Court Workgroup on Continuity of Court Operations and Proceedings During and After COVID-19 ("To assist judges in managing various challenges that may arise with proceedings during the pandemic, the Workgroup on Continuity of Court Operations and Proceedings During and After COVID-19 has developed best practices on the following topics: Facilitating Pro Se Litigants with Remote Appearance Technology, Representing Yourself and Using Remote Appearance Technology with the Courts, Management of Evidence in Remote Hearings in Civil and Family Cases, Out-of-County Inmates")​

  • Indiana: May 13, 2020, Resuming Operations of the Trial Courts ("COVID-19 Guidelines for Indiana’s Judiciary")

  • Indiana Supreme Court Resuming Operations Task Force: Resource Guide for the Resumption of Civil Jury Trials in Indiana ("The guides and practices suggested herein are in direct response to the ongoing public health emergency created by COVID-19, and the Court’s inherent authority to supervise the administration of all courts of this state pursuant to Indiana Administrative Rule 17. The Court will notify all courts when that emergency supervision has ended and that any public health emergency created by COVID-19 no longer rises to the level of invoking Indiana Administrative Rule 17. At that time, the Court expects all courts may return to the normal operating procedures that existed immediately prior to the public health emergency created by COVID-19.”)

  • Eastern District of Louisiana: August 20, 2020, COVID -19 General Order 20-10 (“All civil and criminal jury trials are suspended until January 1, 2021 and will be reset by each presiding judge. Those continuances do not continue any pending deadlines other than the trial dates. Attorneys should contact the presiding judges in their continued cases if they seek to modify such other deadlines.")

  • Massachusetts Jury Management Advisory Committee: July 31, 2020, Report and Recommendations to the Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court on the Resumption of Jury Trials in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic

  • Michigan: April 7, 2020, Michigan Trial Courts Virtual Courtroom Standards and Guidelines 

  • Michigan Trial Court Standards for Courtroom Technology ("These standards and guidelines are established to ensure that courts purchase, maintain, and operate recording systems that are designed to meet the special requirements of courtroom recording. They include standards for: 1) governance, 2) equipment and technology, and 3) operating and monitoring the recording of proceedings.")​

  • Michigan: June 22, 2020, Decision of the Michigan Supreme Court in People v. Jemison ("The Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article I, § 20 of the Michigan Constitution guarantee criminal defendants the right to confront the witnesses against them. In this case, we consider whether a forensic analyst’s two-way, interactive video testimony violated the defendant’s Confrontation Clause rights....In allowing this witness’s two-way, interactive video testimony over the defendant’s objection, the trial court violated the defendant’s Confrontation Clause rights. We reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand to that Court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion, including determining whether that violation was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.")

  • Michigan: June 29, 2020, ACLU of Michigan Letter to Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack and Hon. Thomas P. Boyd, State Court Administrator Regarding the Unconstitutionality of criminal trials with "virtual" defendants, witnesses, or jurors

  • Nebraska: April 2020, Administrative Office of the Courts & Probation, "COVID-19 Recovery and Reconstitution Guidance for the Trial Courts"

  • New Jersey: New Jersey Supreme Court July 22, 2020, Plan for Resuming Jury Trials (46-Page PowerPoint, “Chief Justice Stuart Rabner and the New Jersey Supreme Court are committed to providing comprehensive court services, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. To that end, the New Jersey courts are preparing to resume Civil and Criminal jury trials in or around September 2020. We will mail juror summonses in July/August 2020 and empanel juries and start trials in September....")

  • New Jersey State Bar Association Pandemic Task Force: July 6, 2020, Report of the Committee on the Resumption of Jury Trials ("The New Jersey State Bar Association released a report and recommendations for the resumption of jury trials in the New Jersey courts in response to the systemic disruption of trials due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The proposals are meant to aid the restart of jury trials while accommodating and preserving essential constitutional protections and protecting the health of all involved in the justice system....While preliminary screening of potential jurors may be conducted remotely, ultimately there is no substitute for in-person observation during the final phases of jury selection.")

  • EDNY: August 26, 2020, United States District Judge Gary R. Brown Memorandum and Order--Bench Trial Authorized Without Government Consent​ (“Before the Court is the defendant’s application to proceed with a bench trial notwithstanding the Government’s objection. DE 93. While the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure require the Government’s consent, in extraordinary situations, the Court is empowered to conduct a bench trial upon the defendant’s waiver even over the Government’s objection when required by the interests of justice. Upon careful consideration, the Court finds that the unusual, if not unique, circumstances presented by this particular case dictate that a bench trial be held notwithstanding the Government’s objection.")​

  • SDNY: July 1, 2020, Complaint and Jury Demand by New York State Court Officers Assn. against New York State Office of Court Administration, Quirk v. DiFiore ("As a result of the failure of Defendants to provide PPE to UNION members and properly sterilize work areas within the Court system, UNION members have been, and continue to be, exposed to COVID-19 and have in fact contracted coronavirus and have died as a result of said failure....To date, OCA has failed to provide the COA members with sufficient PPE gear to address health and safety concerns with respect to issues surrounding COVID-19...To date, OCA has failed to properly inspect and establish protocols within New York State Courthouses for continual monitoring and disinfecting of the New York State Courthouses to address health and safety concerns with respect to issues surrounding COVID-19.")

  • SDNY: July 14, 2020, Complaint Challenging Court Reopenings, Bronx Defenders, et al. v. Office of Court Administration ("Plaintiffs have at least hundreds of clients and staff members who have medical vulnerabilities that put them at great risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19.[] On the eve of the rushed and unnecessary reopening of courts contemplated by the In-person Order, Plaintiffs’ clients with these disabilities face the tragic and illegal choice between their fundamental right to participate in their own cases and their health and safety. Meanwhile, their attorneys who have these disabilities will be forced to potentially forgo the process currently developed by Plaintiffs to request and receive reasonable accommodations or modifications and instead endanger their lives in order to access to the courts and represent their clients. These untenable choices will endanger the lives of thousands of New Yorkers by perpetuating the spread of this virus and burden the constitutional rights to access the courts and to due process of law. The Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 ("Section 504") forbid Defendants from forcing people with disabilities to make these choices.") (emphasis added)

  • Ohio: Hamilton County, Ohio, Courts COVID Jury Trial Plan

  • Ohio: May 12, 2020, Jury Trial Advisory Group Standards and Practices Essential to the Resumption of Jury Trials in Ohio ("This includes jury trials in civil, criminal and juvenile matters. While the duration and reach of the pandemic remains largely speculative, consensus within the Ohio legal community is that jury trials must proceed when (1) deemed essential; (2) can be conducted in compliance with best medical practices; and (3) are able to honor the fundamental rights of all parties to the judicial process. This advisory group, on behalf of Ohio’s legal community, asserts that cases must be evaluated on an individualized basis and that a ‘one size fits all’ approach is not appropriate.")​

  • Pennsylvania: COVID-19 Guidelines for Pennsylvania’s Judiciary: Resuming Jury Trials ("On May 11, 2020, the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts (AOPC) in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Conference of State Trial Judges, created a Jury Trial Working Group to identify issues and to provide best practice recommendations for resuming jury trials while ensuring public health and safety... On June 25, 2020, the Working Group issued these recommendations based upon currently-available public health information, with the expectation that these recommendations may be revised or supplemented as circumstances change.")

  • Middle District of Pennsylvania: Plan for the Reinstitution of Jury Proceedings, Revised July 27, 2020 ("The plan that follows is the result of an intensive collaboration between the Office of the United States Attorney and Office of the Federal Defender for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. I am incredibly thankful for the substantial, personal commitment of U.S. Attorney David Freed and Federal Defender Heidi Freese, who in consultation with me, as well as other Court personnel, fashioned this creative and comprehensive plan. While it will not be the subject of a standing order, it is my hope that all judicial officers will carefully consider it as an appropriate, innovative, and worthy template for criminal trials. Moreover, its contents are clearly applicable to civil trials as well.")

  • Eastern District of Tennessee: May 18, 2020, Motion to Continue Pretrial Motions Deadline in United States v. Foster ("This motion is not submitted for the purpose of procrastination or unreasonable delay in this matter or some other improper purpose, but rather is made so that counsel may provide the defendant with the effective assistance of counsel to which he is entitled, that the defendant receive zealous representation, and that the defendant, through counsel, is able to adequately review discovery, research potential issues to be raised via motion, and investigate and develop evidence necessary to present a defense to the charged offenses. 18 U.S.C. § 3161(h)(7)(B); Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 8, Rules of Prof. Conduct; U.S. Const. Amend. VI.") and May 29, 2020, Order Granting Pretrial Motions Deadline in United States v. Foster ("Given the inability of counsel to effectively communicate with Defendant as a result of the pandemic, it is impossible for Defendant and his counsel to determine what motions may need to be filed and to prepare for trial.") (Courtesy of Stephen Ross Johnson)

  • Eastern District of Tennessee: May 22, 2020, Motion to Continue Trial Setting and All Corresponding Deadlines, U.S. v. Rondeau ("the defendant respectfully moves that the pretrial motions deadline, trial date, and all corresponding deadlines be extended. This motion is not submitted for the purpose of procrastination or unreasonable delay in this matter or some other improper purpose, but rather is made so that counsel may provide the defendant with the effective assistance of counsel to which he is entitled, that the defendant receive zealous representation, and that the defendant, through counsel, is able to adequately review discovery, research potential issues to be raised via motion, and investigate and develop evidence necessary to present a defense to the charged offenses. 18 U.S.C. § 3161(h)(7)(B); Rules of Prof. Conduct; U.S. Const. Amend. VI.") (Courtesy of Stephen Ross Johnson)

  • National Center for State Courts: Texas Juror Poll (PowerPoint) Conducted June 8-11, 2020 ("Key Finding: Amidst a pandemic, Texans are hesitant to resume regular activities. People are looking for alternatives to reporting to the courthouse. Seniors (age 65+) present the greatest challenge – they are as uncomfortable with going to a courthouse as they are with accessing remote technology. Composition of jury pool likely to present a challenge in either environment.")

  • Texas: June 29, 2020, Supreme Court of Texas Eighteenth Emergency Order the COVID-19 State of Disaster ("Existing grand juries may meet remotely or in-person as long as adequate social distancing and other restrictions and precautions are taken to ensure the health and safety of court staff, parties, attorneys, jurors, and the public. Courts should consider extending the term of a grand jury under Section 24.0125 of the Texas Government Code and reassembling discharged grand juries under Article 19.41 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. A court must not hold a jury proceeding, including jury selection or a jury trial, prior to September 1, except as authorized by this Order.") (emphasis added)

  • Texas: Harris County Public Defenders Office, Can a Texas Criminal Jury Trial Occur by Video Conference, Absent a Defendant’s Consent? 

  • Northern District of Texas: June 15, 2020, Handbook for Conducting Jury Trials During the Coronavirus Pandemic ("On June 1, 2020, Chief Judge Barbara M. G. Lynn in the Northern District of Texas conducted a federal jury trial using special precautions in light of COVID-19. Despite the many obstacles the Court faced in completing a jury trial during a worldwide pandemic, the experience seemingly demonstrates that it is possible to conduct such a trial safely and fairly. The Court took many measures for the safety of all participants, attempting to ensure that everyone at the trial felt safe and could focus on the merits of the case rather than concerns about coronavirus. This handbook describes the experience and the safety measures put in place.")

  • Eastern District of Virginia: June 30, 2020, General Order Regarding Resumption of Jury Trials ("...the Court’s decision to extend the date for resumption of criminal jury trials to September 14, 2020, reflects feedback the Court received from the defense bar, to include concerns raised by defendants that jurors need to have a lengthy period (within reason) to become comfortable with the idea of sitting in an enclosed courtroom, with a group of strangers, for the entire day. The Court’s CJA Panel Attorney District Representative communicated with the Court on how, and when, to safely resume jury trials in this District and provided the Court with a copy of a June 2020 report issued by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL Report), with the report discussing the 'unprecedented public health risks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic' and the 'enormous challenges for court operations especially in criminal matters where liberty, and in some venues, life are at stake.' NACDL Report, at 2.[8] The NACDL Report discusses the inherent conflicts that arise when endeavoring to preserve all of an accused defendant’s rights and recommends that best practices for resuming trials 'need to prioritize evidence-based health and safety measures and the preservation of fundamental rights over the ministerial needs of docket management.' Id. at 7. The NACDL Report therefore finds that 'Courts must recognize the criminal accused’s right to speedy trial might be subjugated based on the current state of affairs including lack of a vaccine, substantial rates of infection and mortality, and economic hardship.'[9] Id. While this Court does not individually opine on the various conclusions provided in the NACDL Report, the Report provides very useful context from the perspective of the individuals whose role in the trial process is most directly centered on protecting the rights of accused defendants, including their right to a speedy trial....Having considered the NACDL Report, the AO’s Jury Subgroup Report, and input from local stakeholders and local health officials, the Court concludes that conditions specific to this District do not warrant the resumption of jury trials in July or August, months during which numerous additional steps will be taken to prepare for the resumption of trials in early September.")

  • Washington: June 2020, Resuming Jury Trials in Washington State ("Guidelines for Operations during the COVID-19 Pandemic")​

  • Boston College Law Review Electronic Supplement: And Justice for None: How COVID-19 Is Crippling The Criminal Jury Right (Forthcoming, Preprint)

  • Joint Technology Committee: June 25, 2020, Managing Evidence for Virtual Hearings ("This document is a product of the Joint Technology Committee (JTC) established by the Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA), the National Association for Court Management (NACM) and the National Center for State Courts (NCSC)…Judges and court staff are adapting to virtual hearing challenges “on the fly” and learning as they go. As stay-at-home orders are lifted, courts will still have to mitigate ongoing risks associated with public gatherings; virtual hearings will likely continue in many places. Courts are sharing examples and emerging best practices as well as advisories to benefit the court community as a whole. A critical aspect of this effort is how evidence will be handled during virtual hearings.")

  • National Association for Public Defense: June 18, 2020, NAPD Statement on the Issues With the Use of Virtual Court Technology ("This document is organized in four sections: (1) guiding values; (2) constitutional considerations in virtual court; (3) minimum requirements for the implementation of virtual court; (4) special considerations for public defenders. The first three sections are intended for judges and policymakers as input from the defense bar on the implementation of virtual court. These sections describe standards that at least minimally satisfy due process and fair trial protections for the public defender’s client. The final section is aimed at public defenders who may be grappling with the changes virtual court brings to the practice of law.”)

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)

Legal Press Offering Guidance

  • This section is in addition to the "News of Interest" coronavirus news feed section below and is intended to draw particular attention to certain content published in the legal press.

  • Bloomberg Law, March 30, 2020: INSIGHT: Protecting Prisoners in Pandemics Is a Constitutional Must ("Judith Resnik, Arthur Liman Professor of Law at Yale Law School, says putting constitutional obligations into practice for the prison population—for Covid-19 and other diseases—is daunting. Yet there are ways to lower the risks, and we have guideposts.")

  • Law360, May 6, 2020: Problems With Tolling The Speedy Trial Act During Pandemic (By Abbe David Lowell, Christopher Man, Lisa Chan, and Leah Romm, "Among so many other things to address, the coronavirus pandemic has caused law enforcement agencies and courts to reschedule everything from grand jury presentations to arraignments to motions, trials and sentencing. The immediate question these delays raise is the impact of constitutional, statutory and rule-based deadlines. Two of the most important of these are Speedy Trial Act requirements and statutes of limitations. This article discusses federal courts' tolling of the time limits under the Speedy Trial Act and analyzes the validity and duration of those orders.")

  • Law360, May 7, 2020: Problems With Federal Courts Tolling Statutes Of Limitations (By Abbe David Lowell, Christopher Man, Lisa Chan, and Leah Romm, "The article below addresses certain federal courts' purported efforts to toll the statutes of limitations and the likely invalidity of those judicial orders.")

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[.]")

  • Call for a Nationwide Moratorium of Juvenile Fines and Fees (April 2020) ("We call on state and local officials to reduce harm to youth and families by suspending the assessment and collection of all juvenile system fees and fines for at least the duration of this public health and economic crisis, including the following general policy recommendations and specific action steps for decision-makers.")

  • Joint Defender Coalition Letter to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (April 3, 2020) ("We write to provide a blueprint for a structured release program that will not compromise public safety, and to offer the pro bono assistance of our extensive network of law firm partners and public defenders who stand ready to provide legal and logistical assistance to implement a program that you approve. It would be our privilege to work side-by-side with you to help save the lives of incarcerated individuals, correction officers and the family members of correction officers across the state.")

  • Free to Drive Letter to the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators Regarding COVID-19 and Driver’s License Suspensions (April 6, 2020) ("The undersigned members of the Free to Drive coalition urge the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators to ask its U.S.-based member agencies to immediately stop suspending, and refusing to renew, driver’s licenses for reasons other than unsafe driving, and to reinstate licenses currently suspended for reasons other than unsafe driving, for at least the duration of the public health and economic crisis wrought by COVID-19.")

  • Congress Must Act Now to Remove Barriers Based on Arrest or Conviction History for Small Business Owners Seeking COVID-19 Federal Relief (April 10, 2020) ("We oppose the restrictions based on arrest or conviction placed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) on the two small business programs authorized and funded by the CARES Act .... these restrictions will have a significant and detrimental impact on individuals, families, and communities across the United States. The restrictions will have a particularly harsh effect on minority business owners and employees who are disproportionately affected by the criminal legal system as a result of institutional discrimination.")

  • Coalition Letter to U.S. House and Senate Judiciary Committee Leadership Concerning the Criminalization and COVID-19 (April 10, 2020) ("We, the undersigned organizations, are dedicated to the health, safety, and dignity of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), people living with HIV, people involved in the sex trade, substance users, people who access harm reduction services, migrant populations, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people, disabled people, and no- and low-income people. We write today to urge local, state and federal authorities to refrain from using laws punitively in response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Such laws and their enforcement invariably and incommensurately target and harm our communities. Federal, state and local officials have called for new guidance in response to COVID-19 and increasingly harsh enforcement of public health guidance. However, communities already heavily surveilled, policed, and criminalized will likely bear the brunt of COVID-19 related surveillance, policing, criminal charges and/or penalty enhancements. A response rooted in policing and criminalization not only undermines public health and human rights, but jeopardizes the long-term survival of our communities.")

  • Letter to U.S. Attorney General Barr: Expand the BOP’s Response to COVID-19 and Help States Safely Reduce their Prison Populations (April 16, 2020) ("A coalition letter from the criminal justice community to Attorney General Barr calling for the immediate expansion of the Bureau of Prison’s response to the spread of coronavirus inside of prisons across the country”)

  • Letter to BOP Director Michael Carvajal Concerning Demographic Information in the BOP's Daily Reporting (April 21, 2020) ("The 68 undersigned organizations are writing to urge the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to include certain demographic information in its daily reporting of COVID-19 cases within federal facilities. When publicly reporting each day, BOP should include the age, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and disability for incarcerated persons and staff who have contracted, recovered from, and died from COVID-19. BOP should also include this same demographic information in its reporting of people released to home confinement. Additionally, BOP should be reporting the number of people released through compassionate release with demographic information.")

  • Coalition Letter to Congress on Supporting Those Incarcerated in Next COVID-19 Response (May 5, 2020) ("Coalition letter to Congressional leadership regarding supporting the needs of the incarcerated community in the next anticipated federal response package to the COVID-19 pandemic.")

  • Coalition Letter to House Judiciary on Funding Public Defense Services During COVID-19 (May 7, 2020) ("Coalition letter to the House Judiciary Committee regarding the need for more funding for public defense services, made even more critical by the COVID-19 pandemic.")

  • New Yorkers United for Justice Coalition Letter to New York Governor Cuomo and Department of Corrections and Community Supervision Commissioner Annucci Regarding Testing in New York Prisons (May 8, 2020) ("Keeping incarcerated people and corrections professionals safe requires, at a minimum, testing that accurately reflects the spread of the virus inside prisons and transparency about who is infected and where outbreaks are occurring. DOCCS data suggest that testing rates in New York’s prisons are too low and need to be increased.")

  • Joint Letter to the Small Business Administration Regarding the Interim Final Rule for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Business Loan Program (May 15, 2020) ("Recommendations to the Small Business Administration regarding their recently released Interim Final Rule for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Business Loan Program, urging the SBA to reconsider those provisions of the Rule that discriminate against individuals who have a record of arrest or conviction.”)

  • Joint letter to the Senate to adopt provisions of the HEROES Act (May 20, 2020) ("Joint letter calling for the immediate relief for American families with youth in the juvenile legal system by adopting the provisions of the HEROES Act (H.R. 6800).")

  • Joint Statement: Proposed Public Health and Public Safety Pathways for Criminal Justice System Responses to COVID-19 (May 27, 2020) (“Incarceration carries inherent, increased risks to the health of people who are incarcerated and corrections staff that can frustrate management of the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 is having a significant impact on every aspect of the criminal justice system, and it is impossible to overstate the level of fear that people in custody and their families feel in view of their isolation and sense of invisibility and the unprecedented risk to their health. In response, corrections officials across the U.S. are releasing people based on a variety of criteria. From the perspective of law enforcement and criminal justice, correctional health, public health, and infectious disease professionals and advocates, it is important to consider lessons learned from these recent efforts as well as past measures to manage dangerous conditions within correctional facilities. The principles below represent pathways for institutionalizing approaches that maintain high levels of health and safety during this unprecedented public health crisis and beyond.") (Read the joint news release here.)

Government Assistance for Small Businesses

  • Department of the Treasury: Assistance for Small Businesses ("The Paycheck Protection Program prioritizes millions of Americans employed by small businesses by authorizing up to $349 billion toward job retention and certain other expenses. Small businesses and eligible nonprofit organizations, Veterans organizations, and Tribal businesses described in the Small Business Act, as well as individuals who are self-employed or are independent contractors, are eligible if they also meet program size standards.")

  • U.S. Small Business Administration: Coronavirus (COVID-19): Small Business Guidance & Loan Resources ("Relief Options and Additional Resources")

  • May 13, 2020, Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) ("46. Question: How will SBA review borrowers’ required good-faith certification concerning the necessity of their loan request? Answer: When submitting a PPP application, all borrowers must certify in good faith that '[c]urrent economic uncertainty makes this loan request necessary to support the ongoing operations of the Applicant.' SBA, in consultation with the Department of the Treasury, has determined that the following safe harbor will apply to SBA’s review of PPP loans with respect to this issue: Any borrower that, together with its affiliates,[] received PPP loans with an original principal amount of less than $2 million will be deemed to have made the required certification concerning the necessity of the loan request in good faith....")

  • U.S. Chamber of Commerce: Responding to Coronavirus ("The latest resources, guidance and insights to protect American businesses, workers and families.")

  • Dixon Hughes Goodman LLP (Public Accounting Firm): COVID-19 Resources ("We understand that COVID-19 and pandemic preparedness is currently top of mind. DHG is dedicated to the health and safety of its employees, clients and communities in which we serve. In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, we have created an internal pandemic response team reporting to the highest levels within DHG, and we are closely monitoring international, national and local conditions. We will continue to provide guidance as our economic environment changes.")

Additional Resources for the Criminal Justice Community

American Bar Association
  • March 27, 2020, Webinar: New 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.")

  • April 1, 2020, Webinar: Expanding Pretrial Release in the Age of COVID-19 ("For years, criminal justice reform efforts have focused on reducing pretrial detention, particularly detention resulting from an inability to pay cash bail. While many jurisdictions have reduced or eliminated the use of cash bail, particularly for low-level offenses, more than 700,000 people across the country are still detained without having been found guilty of any crime. As COVID-19 has closed or limited courts and postponed jury trials, pretrial detention has become less definite in length. At the same time, concern about the potential spread of COVID-19 in jails has pushed justice system actors to search for ways to reduce jail populations. This webinar will explore several efforts to seek expanded release for those detained pretrial in response to COVID-19.")

  • April 3, 2020, Webinar: COVID-19 and the Compassionate Release of the Elderly, Infirm or High Risk ("As concerns increase about the spread of COVID-19 in jails and prisons, special attention should be given to those most vulnerable to severe cases, particularly the elderly and infirm.  While almost every state has judicial or administrative mechanisms for releasing such prisoners early, release under these programs is rarely achieved.  With the new threat of COVID-19, the release of prisoners at serious health risk is getting a closer look. Our panelists will discuss litigation, legislative and administrative efforts to secure compassionate release in response to COVID-19.")

  • April, 7, 2020, Webinar: Reentry Planning for COVID-19 Releases ("Across the country, advocates are seeking and obtaining the releases of some individuals from jails and prisons to reduce the incarcerated population and combat the spread and harm from COVID-19. The speed of these releases raises concerns about whether these individuals are prepared, particularly given the COVID-related restrictions that exist in most jurisdictions. What health screening do they receive before leaving? Will they have access to transportation, food, and housing? Should they be required to self-quarantine and how do you prepare them to do this immediately following release? This webinar will address how to make sure that those released are prepared and will have access to means to meet their basic needs during the COVID-19 crisis.")

ACLU
American Constitution Society
  • COVID-19 Resources ("Commentary, analysis, and other resources from ACS and our network.")

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.")

American University Washington College of Law Criminal Justice Clinic
The Appeal
Association of Prosecuting Attorneys
Ballotpedia
  • Lawsuits about state actions and policies in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020 ("Ballotpedia is providing comprehensive coverage on how the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is affecting America's political and civic life. Our coverage includes how federal, state, and local governments are responding, and the effects those responses are having on campaigns and elections. These pages are updated daily, Monday-Friday, but our email is always open. We encourage you to share updates from local officials, policymakers, and campaigns in your community at editor@ballotpedia.org.")

Brennan Center for Justice
Brookings Institute
  • June 5, 2020 Webinar: Employment after incarceration—Fair chance hiring in the COVID-19 era (“Prisons, jails, and their surrounding communities have become national hotspots for COVID-19 spread. There is an immediate need to address this crisis and prevent further outbreaks by limiting the number of people in pre-trial detention and releasing non-violent offenders and others who pose a low risk to society. Though some states and jurisdictions have begun the process of reducing overcrowding, the lockdown and economic fallout from COVID-19 has made it even harder for those who are released from incarceration to succeed in making a successful transition back into society. A key part of that transition is getting a job, which is the most effective way to reduce recidivism and to give formerly incarcerated people a fair chance at earning a self-sustaining income. However, the pandemic has dramatically limited employment options and poses extreme safety risks for those who find employment in the essential workforce.ir chance hiring in the COVID-19 era")
Calcasieu Parish Public Defenders’ Office
  • April 9, 2020, Press Release: Depopulating Jails and the Fierce Urgency of Now (“We are facing a world-wide pandemic that has no precedent in living memory. COVID-19 is ravaging Louisiana with numbers of confirmed cases and deaths increasing at alarming rates, in some cases doubling overnight. Our state has more COVID-19 deaths per capita than anywhere in the country and our hospitals are being overwhelmed with the number of patients being admitted as well as a critical lack of available ICU beds and ventilators. We also incarcerate more people, both pre-trial and post-sentencing, than any state in the nation….We have submitted to the judges and the District Attorney's office approximately 250 people for judicial release consideration; none of them are charged with crimes of violence, sex offenses, or serious domestic violence offenses. Rather, the overwhelming majority of these persons are accused of committing drug offenses and the remainder are charged with other non-violent offenses such as theft and property crimes. They are being held in jail, all too often, because they simply cannot afford to pay a bond company 12% of bond amounts that are, on average, $5,000. In other words, they cannot afford to pay $600 in order to secure their release. In many other cases, people cannot afford to pay the $30 processing fee for a release on recognizance bond. Because these people, presumed innocent, cannot afford a relatively low bond or even a processing fee, they remain in jail where they are at high risk of contracting a virus that has no cure and subjects its victims to an excruciating death….We call on all members of the criminal justice system to acknowledge the fierce urgency of now by abandoning complacency and work with us to effect vigorous and positive action. All of our lives depend on the actions we take during this unprecedented crisis. Tomorrow is today and the clock is ticking.”)

California Attorneys for Criminal Justice
  • CACJ COVID-19 Resource Center (Up-to-date Information on California court announcements, sample motions and briefs, as well as relevant reports and guides)

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.")

Center for American Progress
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Resources for Correctional and Detention Facilities Before and During an Outbreak

  • Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Resources for First Responders and Law Enforcement

  • May 6, 2020, Report: COVID-19 in Correctional and Detention Facilities — United States, February–April 2020 ("An estimated 2.1 million U.S. adults are housed within approximately 5,000 correctional and detention facilities† on any given day (1). Many facilities face significant challenges in controlling the spread of highly infectious pathogens such as SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Such challenges include crowded dormitories, shared lavatories, limited medical and isolation resources, daily entry and exit of staff members and visitors, continual introduction of newly incarcerated or detained persons, and transport of incarcerated or detained persons in multiperson vehicles for court-related, medical, or security reasons (2,3). During April 22–28, 2020, aggregate data on COVID-19 cases were reported to CDC by 37 of 54 state and territorial health department jurisdictions. Thirty-two (86%) jurisdictions reported at least one laboratory-confirmed case from a total of 420 correctional and detention facilities. Among these facilities, COVID-19 was diagnosed in 4,893 incarcerated or detained persons and 2,778 facility staff members, resulting in 88 deaths in incarcerated or detained persons and 15 deaths among staff members. Prompt identification of COVID-19 cases and consistent application of prevention measures, such as symptom screening and quarantine, are critical to protecting incarcerated and detained persons and staff members.")

  • July 22, 2020, Interim Guidance on Management of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Correctional and Detention Facilities ("This document provides interim guidance specific for correctional facilities and detention centers during the outbreak of COVID-19, to ensure continuation of essential public services and protection of the health and safety of incarcerated and detained persons, staff, and visitors. Recommendations may need to be revised as more information becomes available")

  • July 24, 2020, Health Equity Considerations & Racial & Ethnic Minority Groups ("Community- and faith-based organizations, employers, healthcare systems and providers, public health agencies, policy makers, and others all have a part in helping to promote fair access to health. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, we must work together to ensure that people have resources to maintain and manage their physical and mental health, including easy access to information, affordable testing, and medical and mental health care. We need programs and practices that fit the communities where racial and minority groups live, learn, work, play, and worship.")

CLASP -- Policy Solutions that Work for Low Income People
  • COVID-19 Response Must Include Youth and Adults Impacted by the Criminal Justice System ("Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, formerly incarcerated individuals were unemployed at a rate of over 27 percent, with the rate disproportionately higher for Black men and Black women at 35.2 and 43.6 percent, respectively. This pre-pandemic unemployment rate of 27 percent, which is nearly five times higher than the rate for the U.S. population, is due to structural barriers such as discrimination, arbitrary licensing bans and more, that preclude formerly incarcerated individuals from working.")

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.”)

Congressional Research Service Reports
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")

The COVID Prison Project
#Cut50
Department of Justice
  • March 26, 2020, Memorandum from U.S. Attorney General Barr to the Director of Bureau of Prisons regarding Prioritization of Home Confinement as Appropriate in Response to COVID-19 Pandemic ("...there are some at-risk inmates who are non-violent and pose minimal likelihood of recidivism and who might be safer serving their sentences in home confinement rather than in BOP facilities. I am issuing this Memorandum to ensure that we utilize home confinement, where appropriate, to protect the health and safety of BOP personnel and the people in our custody")

  • April 3, 2020, Memorandum from U.S. Attorney General Barr to the Director of the Bureau of Prisons Regarding Increasing Use of Home Confinement at Institutions Most Affected by COVID-19​ ("As you know, we are experiencing significant levels of infection at several of our facilities, including FCI Oakdale, FCI Danbury, and FCI Elkton. We have to move with dispatch in using home confinement, where appropriate, to move vulnerable inmates out of these institutions. I would like you to give priority to these institutions, and others similarly affected, as you continue to process the remaining inmates who are eligible for home confinement under pre-CARES Act standards. In addition, the CARES Act now authorizes me to expand the cohort of inmates who can be considered for home release upon my finding that emergency conditions are materially affecting the functioning of the Bureau of Prisons. I hereby make that finding and direct that, as detailed below, you give priority in implementing these new standards to the most vulnerable inmates at the most affected facilities, consistent.with the guidance below.") (Analysis Courtesy of Attorney Peter Goldberger: "This April 3, 2020, memo issued pursuant to the CARES Act permits transfer of any and all "vulnerable" federal inmates to home confinement, to be selected by BOP wardens on an institution by institution basis. This eliminates all the restrictions (age and offense-related) that were included in the First Step Act home confinement pilot program expansion, as well as the 6-month/10% limitation of the SRA. It contains none of the many possible limitations alluded to (and emphasized) in Barr's prior, March 26, 2020, memo. It requires 14-day quarantine either prior to transfer or upon arrival at home confinement. It permits but does not require electronic monitoring as a condition of home confinement. It does not categorically exclude any group of inmates, whether by length or nature of sentence, by offense of conviction, or otherwise, although it does require consideration of public safety risk. It directs that inmates at institutions with greatest number of COVID-19 cases (presently, Oakdale LA, Danbury CT and Elkton OH) to be prioritized. As I understand the relevant legal structure, this amounts to a transfer from one "place of imprisonment" to another; it does not reduce or otherwise modify the sentence. As a result, judges and courts will have no direct role in the home confinement process, other than the opportunity to exercise their pre-existing authority to "recommend" a place of imprisonment per 18 USC 3621(b)(4)(B). (Of course, this in no way impairs the court's existing Reduction in Sentence ("compassionate release") authority.) So, one thing defense attorneys can do for clients is to write the sentencing judge asking now for such a recommendation for transfer (do not refer to it as "release") to home confinement. The only other thing counsel can do, I suppose, is to use CorrLinks to encourage suitable clients in federal prison to request consideration for such transfers for themselves. (By "suitable," I would be thinking of inmates who are over 50 and/or ill or debilitated and/or diagnosed with a pulmonary or immune-system condition, including diabetes. More likely to benefit, I suppose, would be those with little or no history of violence, and who have either served more than half the prison term or have less than two years to the gate anyway. But that's just my intuition, not based on experience or policy, as there is none yet.)")

  • April 6, 2020, Memorandum from U.S. Attorney General Barr to All Heads of Department Components and All United States Attorneys Regarding Litigating Pre-Trial Detention Issues During the COVID-19 Pandemic ("The mission of the Department of Justice is to enforce our nation's laws and to ensure the safe and fair administration of justice. We have an obligation to maintain public safety and to protect victims and witnesses from threats and retaliation, and we must also safeguard the health and safety of those remanded to our custody. As always, controlling weight should be given to public safety, and under no circumstance should those who present a risk to any person or the community be released. But the current COVID-19 pandemic requires that we also ensure we are giving appropriate weight to the potential risks facing certain individuals from being remanded to federal custody. Each case must be evaluated on its own and, where appropriate, the risks the pandemic presents should be part of your analysis, as elaborated further below.")
End Incarceration ​
Equal Justice Initiative
  • Covid-19’s Impact on People in Prison ("People who are incarcerated are at great risk of sickness and death as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and more must be done to release people who are imprisoned and are not a threat to public safety or are elderly or infirm. The inability to quarantine or practice social distancing, together with overcrowding, imperils the lives of many people incarcerated in jails and prisons. Nationwide, the known infection rate for Covid-19 in jails and prisons is about 2½ times higher than in the general population, and as of last week, eight of the 10 largest outbreaks in the country have been at correctional facilities.")

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
  • March 19, 2020, Letter from Federal Defenders Legislative Committee to U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr, Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen, and Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Michael Carvajal

  • Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Resources ("The Defender Services Office and the Administrative Office of the United States Courts have been closely monitoring the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), other health care entities, and government agencies. This novel coronavirus outbreak could change significantly or drastically in the next few weeks or months. This page contains important resources concerning the new COVID-19. This page is being updated several times daily.")

  • April 1, 2020, Letter from Federal Defenders Legislative Committee to U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr ("We write on behalf of the Federal Public and Community defenders. At any given time, Defenders and others appointed under the Criminal Justice Act represent 90 percent of all federal defendants because they cannot afford counsel. On March 19, 2020, we wrote to you to warn that our jails and prisons were in 'grave and imminent danger.' We urged you to take 'immediate and decisive action' to address the impending spread of COVID-19 among incarcerated persons. That same day, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) confirmed the first presumed-positive COVID-19 cases in the federal prison system. Despite our warnings—and those of Congress, policy groups, and public health and legal experts— the Department of Justice (DOJ) has failed to respond appropriately to this global pandemic.")

  • May 11, 2020, Letter from Federal Defenders Legislative Committee to U.S. Senate and House Leadership ("We are grateful for the continued interest in the views of the Federal Public and Community Defenders (“Federal Defenders”) by Congress during the COVID-19 crisis. Federal Defenders and other counsel appointed under the Criminal Justice Act represent 90 percent of all federal defendants. We write because vulnerable individuals in federal detention need your help to protect them from serious illness or death. The following measures would provide badly needed relief: [a] presumption of release under the Bail Reform Act, absent clear and convincing evidence that a person poses a specific threat of violence; [b]roader tools to enable courts to release or transfer—even temporarily—individuals already sentenced, including broader authority to modify existing sentences, grant furloughs, and grant compassionate release; and [o]ngoing, universal testing for all incarcerated individuals and staff, including at private contract facilities.")

Fines and Fees Justice Center
Fiscalnote
Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (FACDL)
Immigrant Justice Network
  • Criminalization During COVID-19 ("...enforcing stay-at-home orders with harsh policing and incarceration actually increases risk of transmission. It is impossible to practice social distancing in an arrest or in jails and prisons. Police stops and arrests involve direct interpersonal contact between officers and the public, at a time when 16% of New York Police Department officers are out sick or quarantined. A night in jail can mean sharing a single cell with 24 other people. For immigrants, the pipeline from arrest to deportation remains active. ICE continues to surveil immigrants who have contact with police, conduct community raids, and detain people at record numbers. There is no way to flatten the curve when people are locked up in cages and don’t even have access to soap or clean water.")

Justice Action Network
  • Daily Updates on COVID-19 and the Justice System ("Thus far, we have focused this update on positive steps to mitigate the impact of this crisis on vulnerable populations, and we will continue to share information with you about federal, state, local, and individual efforts to ‘flatten the curve.’ Moving forward, we will also bring attention to places where steps are not being taken to protect incarcerated men and women, correctional officers, law enforcement, and the community at large.")

  • Task Force Report on Federal Emergency Relief ("Justice Action Network, the country’s largest bipartisan organization focused on criminal justice reform at the state and federal levels, released a report informed by prosecutors, law enforcement, public defenders, corrections officials, judges, and elected officials. Authorities from 15 states outlined the harsh reality of what is happening in America’s justice system and what resources they must have from Washington – before it’s too late.”)

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
Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP)
  • April 10, 2020, COVID-19 Executive Order Letter: New York ("We wish to request your attention to further opportunities to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by safely reducing the prison population. Transmission between prisoners, officers, and staff would quickly spread outside the facilities to the families of officers and released prisoners, accelerating the pandemic. We have watched governors act on this issue in ColoradoNew Jersey, and Kentucky. We are writing to urge you to take executive action to reduce the prison population. We also urge you to guide prison administrators to stop responding to COVID-19 issues in prison through the use of solitary confinement. A sample Executive Order with concrete recommendations is attached.")

The Marshall Project
Mitchell Hamline School of Law Sex Offense Litigation and Resource Center
  • COVID-19: Strategies for Reducing Transmission ("In response to the current COVID-19 Pandemic, the Sex Offense Litigation and Policy Resource Center has published a set of guidelines for law enforcement, policy experts, and others with respect to law and policy focused on those with past convictions for sex offenses.")

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.")

  • June 18, 2020, NAPD Statement on the Issues With the Use of Virtual Court Technology ("This document is organized in four sections: (1) guiding values; (2) constitutional considerations in virtual court; (3) minimum requirements for the implementation of virtual court; (4) special considerations for public defenders. The first three sections are intended for judges and policymakers as input from the defense bar on the implementation of virtual court. These sections describe standards that at least minimally satisfy due process and fair trial protections for the public defender’s client. The final section is aimed at public defenders who may be grappling with the changes virtual court brings to the practice of law.”)

NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
  • Legal Defense Fund Working to Mitigate the Impacts of COVID-19 on Black Communities (“Due in large part to a lack of responsiveness by the federal government, our nation is currently being ravaged by an invisible threat–COVID-19, also known as the novel coronavirus. With 9 in 10 Americans impacted by stay-at-home orders, the closures of college campuses and schools,  and en masse layoffs, our economy is spiraling toward recession, and Black communities have been some of the most impacted….Just like any other, LDF is not backing down from this fight. Our staff is working diligently to mitigate the unique threats that COVID-19 poses to Black communities. These are just some of the most recent ways that we are working to protect Black communities during the coronavirus pandemic”)

National Center for State Courts
National Commission on Correctional Health Care
National Conference of State Legislatures
  • Legislative Sessions and the Coronavirus ("NCSL is tracking the impact the coronavirus (COVID-19) may have on state legislatures, including suspension or postponement of legislative sessions.")

  • Justice Responses to COVID-19: NCSL Virtual Meetings ("We know that legislators, staff, and those who work with them need timely information about the impact of COVID-19 on criminal and juvenile justice systems and policy options to meet the challenge. The NCSL criminal justice program is hosting a series of virtual meetings on the most pressing topics to meet your needs. They will feature NCSL staff and other experts on the topic, and will give you the opportunity to ask questions and let us know how we can best serve you during this time. See the full list of upcoming meetings listed below. Consider NCSL your resource for information during these challenging times!")

National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges
  • COVID-19 Resources and Updates ("The updates and resources collected reflect the most up to date information through various sources.  The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) is continuing to update resources on the COVID-19 and will post updated information as it is made available.  If you or your jurisdiction has any updated information to share, please contact us.") 
National District Attorneys Association
National Juvenile Justice Network
National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty
  • Coronavirus ("Given close quarters, compromised immune systems, and an aging population, people experiencing homelessness are exceptionally vulnerable to communicable diseases not excluding the current outbreak of coronavirus, COVID-19.")

  • Housing Not Handcuffs ("Criminalization of homelessness is when law enforcement threatens or punishes homeless people for doing things in public that every person has to do. This can include activities such as sleeping, resting, sheltering oneself, asking for donations, or simply existing in public places. It also includes arbitrarily or unfairly enforcing other laws, such as jaywalking or disorderly conduct against homeless individuals, and the practice of 'sweeps' or displacing homeless people from outdoor public spaces through harassment, threats, and evictions from living in camps.")

  • Housing Not Handcuffs 2019 Report 

  • Homelessness During the Pandemic: What to Do and How to Help ("A guide that highlights the increased vulnerability of homelessness for families and children and how to support underprivileged populations during these unprecedented times. The guide includes an inclusive infographic on homelessness in America, local resources and ways the community can help, and state and federal support programs.")

National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA)
  • NLADA COVID-19 Updates and Resources​ ("The global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has not only exacerbated existing legal challenges faced by low-income and vulnerable people in the United States, it has also highlighted new issues in many substantive areas. Across the country, advocates in civil legal aid, public defense and affected communities are responding to ensure access to basic human needs and safety. NLADA is coordinating with an array of experts in both the delivery of legal services and access to justice, as well as experts in specific practice areas and leaders in providing civil legal aid and public defense.​")

National Sheriffs’ Association
New England Journal of Medicine
New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association
New Mexico Law Offices of the Public Defender
New York City Bar Association
New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NYSACDL)
New Yorkers United for Justice
No Kids In Prison
NYU School of Law Center on the Administration of Criminal Law
Oregon Office of Public Defense Services
  • COVID-19 Updates (Resources and information for attorneys and community members, including juvenile specific advocacy tools)

Penal Reform International
Physicians for Criminal Justice Reform
  • March 22, 2020, Statement on Youth In Detention (Statement to State Governors, State and Local Juvenile Detention and Correctional Departments, and Juvenile Court Judges and Magistrates re COVID-19 Risks for Detained and Incarcerated Youth)
Pretrial Justice Institute
Prison Fellowship
Prison Policy Initiative
Prisoner Advocacy Network (PAN)
  • COVID-19 Resources ("We encourage you to learn more about the resources our community is providing during this time and share them with your networks.")

Reform Alliance
Relentless Health Value
  • May 3, 2018, Podcast: Addiction Is a Chronic Illness, With Lipi Roy, MD ("Drug overdoses kill nearly 64,000 people a year and the nation’s life expectancy has fallen 2 years in a row. If it is your mission and purpose to improve patient outcomes, considering addiction is paramount. Today, I speak with Lipi Roy, MD, who is a clinical assistant professor at the NYU School of Medicine, and the former chief of addiction medicine at New York’s Rikers Island Correctional Facility.")

The Sentencing Project
  • COVID-19 in Juvenile Facilities ("It is vital to relieve crowding in juvenile facilities in order to limit the spread of COVID-19. The Sentencing Project is tracking COVID-19 positive diagnoses among youth and staff at juvenile facilities and the number of known cases in each state.")

Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (TACDL)
  • March 27, 2020, TACDL-endorsed Letter from David Raybin to the Tennessee Board of Parole ("Tennessee statutes provide that the Parole Board has exclusive authority to parole inmates from prison. I am aware the Board has granted parole in numerous cases, but the inmate remains incarcerated because of the unavailability of pre-parole programs mandated by the Board as a condition of release. Considering the increasing danger presented by the COVID-19 virus, I respectfully request the Board accelerate the release of already-paroled prisoners.")

Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (TCDLA)
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.")

  • April 28, 2020, Letter of Request from the Judicial Conference to Leadership of U.S. Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Appropriations and Subcommittees on Financial Services and General Government ("Subsequent to our request for that funding, we worked closely with courts and federal defender organizations nationwide and have identified additional supplemental appropriations requirements associated with COVID-19 pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response. The $36.6 million we are seeking is to address emergent needs such as enhanced cleaning of court facilities, health screening at courthouse entrances, information technology hardware and infrastructure costs associated with expanded telework and videoconferencing, costs associated with probation and pretrial services supervision of offenders released from prison and defendants on pretrial release, and security related costs....Enclosure 2 provides a detailed list of 17 legislative proposals of interest to the federal Judiciary in connection with its ongoing efforts to respond to the COVID-19 national emergency. Each of these proposals has been approved by the Judicial Conference. Draft legislative text is provided for each proposal. The underlying objective behind each proposal is to ensure that the federal Judiciary continues to meet its constitutional mandate while protecting the health and safety of court personnel, litigants, and the public. Of particular note, we have included a number of proposals intended to protect criminal detainees and litigants during the COVID-19 crisis, such as expediting compassionate release procedures under the First Step Act, reducing unnecessary pretrial detention of certain low-risk defendants, and allowing probation officers to focus on higher risk offenders instead of low-risk compassionate release offenders.") (emphasis added)

University of California Berkeley School of Law
University of Michigan Law School Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
  • COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) ("This page collects cases that address the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing, etc. (We're not able to catalog every single-person request for release, but are presenting the cases affecting multiple persons.)")

UCLA Prison Law and Policy Program
  • UCLA COVID-19 Behind Bars Data Project ("In March 2020, in the face of the increasing danger posed by Covid-19 to people held in jails and prisons, the UCLA Prison Law and Policy Program launched the UCLA Covid-19 Behind Bars Data Project. The Project, spearheaded by Professor Sharon Dolovich, tracks Covid-19 conditions in jails and prisons and the efforts — both in and out of court — to decrease jail and prison populations and improve conditions to ensure the safety of residents and staff.") (Tracking viral spread; number of residents released from jail population-reduction efforts; number of residents released from prison population-reduction efforts; number of residents released for population reduction efforts in immigration detention facilities; requests for authoritative actions to reduce correctional population densities; system responses and authoritative actions to reduce correctional population densities; specific legal requests and court order; confirmed cases, requests for decarceration, responses, and policy in youth correctional facilities; confirmed cases, requests for decarceration, responses, and policy in immigration detention facilities; visitation suspension policies and offerings of compensatory remote access; descriptive summaries of ongoing policies affecting carceral conditions; and more)

  • Court Orders

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.")

  • Use this Data to Hold Your Local Jail Accountable During the Pandemic ("...using a new tool from Vera, you can hold policymakers accountable by monitoring jail populations across the country. The tool presents the most recent jail population data available, as well as the jail population before the crisis. You can see who is taking the steps necessary to downsize jails during this crisis and identify places acting less quickly, where we should concentrate efforts to decarcerate.")

Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
Washington Defender Association
  • COVID-19 Defender Advocacy Tools (“Advocating for release & other relief during COVID 19 Health Crisis: Tools for Release Including Motions, Briefing and More.”)

Wisconsin State Public Defenders
Zealous: Media Training and Movement Building for Public Defenders
  • Public Defender Sample Talking Points: Coronavirus Rapid Response ("This document was prepared based on review on dozens of media articles, quotes, demand letters from various entities, including defender offices, and press releases from around the country and represents what we believe is the most effective messaging for public defenders when talking to traditional media, when posting on social media, when writing press releases, or when developing other content. The messaging is meant to be able to respond to the urgent crisis at hand, while contextualizing the crisis and needed response within the cruelty and irrationality of the system we already knew, as well as the need for bold transformation of the legal system after the coronavirus hopefully passes to move away from a punishment system and greater investment in public health.")

International Resources

  • Statement from the UNHCHR ("Now, more than ever, governments should release every person detained without sufficient legal basis, including political prisoners and others detained simply for expressing critical or dissenting views. Under international human rights law, States have an obligation to take steps to prevent foreseeable threats to public health and have a duty to ensure that all who need vital medical care can receive it.")

  • Statement from the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) ("Whilst acknowledging the clear imperative to take firm action to combat COVID-19, the CPT must remind all actors of the absolute nature of the prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment. Protective measures must never result in inhuman or degrading treatment of persons deprived of their liberty. In the CPT’s view, the following principles should be applied by all relevant authorities responsible for persons deprived of their liberty within the Council of Europe area.")

  • Inter-Agency Standing Committee's Interim Guidance on COVID-19, developed by OHCHR and WHO ("Maintaining health in detention centres is in the interest of the persons deprived of their liberty as well as of the staff of the facility and the community. The state has the obligation, according to international human rights law , to ensure the health care of people in places of detention. If the risks related to the virus in places of detention are not addressed, the outbreak can also widen spread to the general public.")

  • Relevant language in decisions adopted by the Committee against Torture and other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment: 

    • CAT/C/52/D/497/2012 (“3.6 He further claims that his health condition requires specialized examination and adequate medical treatment that he cannot get in a regular prison as he contracted infiltrative tuberculosis complicated with tuberculosis pleurisy, which amounts to a violation of his rights under article 16 of the Convention.”)

    • CAT/C/51/D/434/2010 (“7.4 Concerning the complainants’ claim under article 16 of the Convention relating to their expulsion in light of their health, the Committee recalls its prior jurisprudence that the aggravation of the condition of an individual’s physical or mental health by virtue of a deportation is generally insufficient, in the absence of additional factors, to amount to degrading treatment in violation of article 16.")

    • CAT/C/31/D/189/2001 ("2.14 The complainant says that the living standards and the treatment meted out to prisoners by the prison authorities made his imprisonment an intolerable ordeal. He refers to the prison crowding, the dirty conditions, the contagious diseases and the lack of medical care… He adds that he was deprived of medical care, despite repeated requests, threats to go on hunger strike and his refusal to take exercise in the prison yard.”)

  • Relevant language in decisions adopted by the UNHCHR/ICCPR: 

    • General comment No. 36: Article 6 (right to life)

    • General comment No. 21:  Article 10 (Humane treatment of persons deprived of their liberty)

    • General comment No. 20:  Article 7 (Prohibition of torture, or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment)

    • CCPR/C/78/D/1020/2001 (“3.7 The authors claim that 'their right to health is being put or exposed to serious jeopardy', by being detained with prisoners who suffer from communicable diseases.")

    • CCPR/C/77/D/908/2000 (“2.3 In support of these allegations, the author refers to an article in a national newspaper, dated 5 March 1995, in which the General Secretary of the Prison Officers’ Association, was quoted, among other things, as stating that 'the conditions are highly deplorable, unacceptable and pose a health hazard.' The author submits that in the same article the General Secretary stated that limited resources, the spread of communicable diseases, such as chicken pox, tuberculosis and scabies, also makes the job of the prison officer more harrowing.")

    • CCPR/C/62/D/676/1996 ("5.8 The State party admits that there is a block at Georgetown Prisons where prisoners with communicable diseases are kept.")

    • CCPR/C/76/D/881/1999 (“2.2 On 13 February 1997, the author commenced an action in the South Australian Supreme Court against the State Government. He contended that the doubling-up, which was taking place in Adelaide Remand Centre, was contrary to international standards and complained that it caused increased sexual assaults on inmates, assaults on correctional staff, non-smokers being made to share with smokers, and increased communication of communicable diseases. He sought a declaration that the Department of Correctional Services had breached human rights.”)

    • CCPR/C/69/D/688/1996 (“3.1 The author claims that prison conditions are appalling, and that the inmates are allowed out of their 3x3 metre cells only for half an hour each day. … Any medication, including vitamins and food supplements, has to be prescribed by the prison doctor. Many inmates suffer from psychiatric problems or contagious diseases. All inmates are housed together and there are no facilities for the sick. When inmates are taken to hospital, they are handcuffed and fettered.”)

    • CCPR/C/118/D/2317/2013 ("2.5 He claims that up to the beginning of August 2009 he was subjected to severe forms of torture by the officers from the National Security Service and the police, as well as by detainees acting on instructions from the officers. … He was put in a cell with prisoners infected with tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.”)

      • “10.2 The State party’s failure to carry out an effective investigation into the author’s allegations of torture, the Committee finds a violation of the author’s rights under article 7 of the Covenant, read alone and in conjunction with article 2 (3) of the Covenant.”

    • CCPR/C/117/D/2226/2012 ("3.2 The author also claims a violation of article 7 of the Covenant because of his ill-treatment while in detention and because of the detention conditions in the LBK-12 prison. [...] The prison was overcrowded, and prisoners infected with tuberculosis and skin diseases were kept together with healthy inmates. Although the author does not invoke it specifically, the communication also appears to raise issues under article 10 of the Covenant.”)