We’re facing uncertain times. COVID-19 has changed daily life for the foreseeable future, and as our families and communities prepare for what lies ahead, the Law Enforcement Action Partnership recognizes the strain a global pandemic places on so many of us, including law enforcement and medical personnel, and the justice system as a whole.
One particularly vulnerable group in this type of crisis: incarcerated people and corrections staff who spend long hours in close, often unsanitary conditions, with limited access to adequate medical care. Corrections facilities have countless entry points into the community, including corrections officers, medical staff, food service staff, religious service workers, teachers, visitors, and more. If this virus spreads throughout our corrections system, it will not be contained there.
As COVID-19 moves through our communities, medical experts know immediate steps must be taken to address this massive threat to public health. Now is the time to act. We need to reduce incarceration levels, particularly for those in pre-trial diversion programs, rehabilitation programs, those facing imminent release, those being held on minor parole violations or other low-level offenses, and elderly prisoners who pose no public safety risk. Beyond that, we should stop criminalizing homelessness, allow court dates to be postponed or proceed without the defendant present until this public health crisis can be managed effectively, and utilize as many alternatives to detention as possible.
If we fail to act, the virus will spread throughout our prison system and beyond — putting all of us at even greater risk and overwhelming our medical facilities. This crisis requires a robust and immediate response. LEAP joins our criminal justice partners in calling for safety measures that will protect us all: our law enforcement and medical professionals, essential service workers, and our communities — particularly the most vulnerable among us, including the homeless and those in detention.
We urge you to practice individual responsibility and stay community-minded. Think of the greater good — working together is the way we will get through this.
Justice in a time of coronavirus: Scared jurors, delayed trials, court closures — The LA Times
Police union files complaint with state over alleged NYPD failure to issue personal protective gear to cops during coronavirus outbreak — MSN.com
How coronavirus could affect US jails and prisons — The Brennan Center
The Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP) is a nonprofit group of police, judges, prosecutors, and other justice system professionals who use their expertise to promote evidence-based solutions to public safety problems. To keep our speakers at the forefront of criminal justice reform, we need your help. Donate here.