Incarcerated in County State or Federal Prison During COVID-19

by Lauren A Wimmer on Apr. 24, 2020

Criminal 

Summary: Getting arrested and being stuck in jail while fighting criminal charges is frustrating and difficult enough. Being arrested and incarcerated in the age of the novel coronavirus puts your health at risk even more than usual as social distancing is near impossible in a prison. With courts closed to the public and emergency hearings being held for only certain motions and cases, you or a loved one could be sitting in jail much longer than you would otherwise.

When the coronavirus pandemic began, experts immediately expressed concerns about inmates in jails and prisons throughout the country. In such close quarters, it is virtually impossible to effectively stop the virus from spreading to all inmates. Staff and visitors are also at risk. In response to these risks, the entire criminal justice system has been taking extraordinary measures to protect the population in these dangerous times.

The Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas has announced that it will be closed to the public until the end of May. This will result in the postponement of all criminal hearings and trials in the courthouse. It’s not just the courts taking action, either. In mid-March, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner was revising his office’s policies surrounding charging and bail. Many defense attorneys have called for expanded pretrial release for nonviolent offenders and the ability to file emergency motions for bail reductions and detainer hearings. It is extraordinary to see a high-ranking prosecutor also change policies in favor of defendants. This shows just how serious the pandemic has become. It has crossed partisan barriers to become a human rights issue – and all too often, a matter of survival.

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