By Lea Barrios
PHILADELPHIA – District Attorney Larry Krasner and Public Defender Keir Bradford-Grey released a statement in Philadelphia urging courts to reevaluate sentences for release to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in detention facilities.
Many district attorney’s and public defender’s offices have worked together in counties across the United States, urging courts to reevaluate sentences, release incarcerated people, and reduce the population to prevent the spread of the virus.
On April 3, 2020, the Philadelphia DA’s and Public Defender’s offices announced that incarcerated people who have served the minimum sentence for their charge, are held on bail under $50,000, are held under technical terms that violated their probation, and could be released from jail without risking the safety of the public will qualify for release.
“Those charged with sex offenses, crimes of violence, including gun offenses, and the sale of drugs weren’t included in our proposals,” wrote Krasner and Bradford-Grey.
Facilities like jails put incarcerated people at high risk of contracting the virus because social distancing cannot be done properly.
San Francisco County’s District Attorney and Public Defender wrote to California Governor Gavin Newsom urging him to enforce that courts reevaluate sentences for release, with the intention of preventing the virus from spreading in California facilities. Philadelphia and San Francisco are two of the many counties that are taking action to prevent their incarcerated people from contracting the highly contagious virus.
The joint statement cited other counties’ results of their population reduction: “Even the troubled Rikers Island Jail population is below 5,000 — roughly equivalent to ours, although New York is home to five times as many people. Meanwhile, Philadelphia has seen only a 5% reduction since courts were closed on March 17th.
“Our proposal would have granted immediate case reviews for more than 2,000 incarcerated people, nearly half of the jail population, which would allow for the social distancing necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is supportive of this decision to reduce the population of incarcerated people in these facilities, including immigration jails. They have filed lawsuits in five states including Pennsylvania in hopes of releasing incarcerated people due to their age or medical conditions which would make them vulnerable to the virus.
The Marshall Project has expressed the same concern and has supported the release of incarcerated people to prevent the spread of the virus. They have pointed out that facilities like prisons have a large population of people over the age of 55 who are more vulnerable to the virus.
There has been collective support for the reduction of the population of incarcerated people in jails, prisons, and detention centers across the country, as the stay-in quarantine requires strangers to keep a distance of six feet from each other.
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