COVID-19 and Criminal Justice

New Report: "Counting the Days: The Story of Prolonged Detention During COVID-19"

This report, authored by three UCLA School of Law students, uncovers that people incarcerated in Los Angeles County jails pretrial are being held for longer periods of time during the COVID-19 pandemic than prior to the pandemic. While 35% of the pretrial population in January had been in custody for six months or longer, in September it jumped to 41%. The percentage of Black and Latinx people in the jails increased during the pandemic. 36% of Black people detained pretrial in January had been in jail for 6 months or longer, but that number jumped to just over 44% by September. 

The report draws from over 400 declarations submitted by people incarcerated in the County’s jails. It argues that if the County does not act to release people during the deadly pandemic and safely resume jury trials, there will be massive violations of the constitutional rights of people incarcerated pretrial and potentially deadly consequences for all those in the County's jails.

Read the report.

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Suing to Save Lives--Cullors v. County of Los Angeles

Legal action is being taken against the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department for the lack of adequate protection and care of the people incarcerated in LA County Jails during this pandemic. Dignity & Power Now and Youth Justice Coalition, along with 9 currently incarcerated individuals, are the named plaintiffs in the lawsuit, and the case is filed on behalf of a putative class of everyone incarcerated in Los Angeles County jails. This lawsuit joins a myriad of other lawsuits that have been filed across the country in the wake of COVID-19, as well as a recent ACLU study citing COVID-19 could kill approximately 100,000 more people if jail populations are not dramatically and immediately reduced. Faculty of the UCLA Law Clinics, Hadsell Stormer Renick & Dai LLP, McLane, Bednarski & Litt, LLP, Civil Rights Corps, and the American Civil Liberties Union are representing the plaintiffs.

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The Criminal Justice Program proposes public health pathways for the criminal justice system's response to COVID-19

Incarceration carries increased risks to the health of people who are incarcerated and corrections staff that can frustrate management of the COVID-19 pandemic. These principles provide pathways for institutional approaches to maintain health and safety during COVID-19 and beyond.

Read Proposed Public Health and Public Safety Pathways for Criminal Justice System Responses to COVID-19

Letter to the California Judicial Council Regarding COVID-19

Alicia Virani of the Criminal Justice Program, Andrew Whitcup, Assistant Director of the Office of Public Interest Programs, and Professor and CJP Faculty Director Máximo Langer authored a letter submitted to the California Judicial Council on behalf of 37 law faculty from around the state of California addressing the Judicial Council's recent orders that extend the statutory time for criminal hearings. The letter asks for the Judicial Council to heed the warnings of public health experts as well as the frightening precedent of places like Rikers Island and Cook County Jail that have seen the deaths of people incarcerated there from COVID-19. In the context of jails that are woefully equipped to maintain sanitary conditions, provide adequate testing, or follow any of the CDC guidelines for care, it is pressing that people incarcerated in the jails spend less time there rather than more. The letter urges the Judicial Council to amend the orders so as to preserve the statutory timelines set out in the California Penal Code for people currently in custody so they will not be subjected to prolonged periods of time in facilities that place them at incredibly high risk of serious injury or death due to COVID-19.

Read the letter to the Judicial Council.

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