If You are a Criminal Defendant in Custody During COVID-19, You Have Rights
The COVID-19 virus has created difficult and unprecedented challenges that affect all aspects of our daily life. It presents a unique challenge in the context of the criminal justice system. If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime, you are presumed innocent and have certain rights. A criminal charge or accusation does not mean a person loses their right to sanitary conditions, health care, and protection from exposure to illness. The need to ensure preservation of these rights has never been more pronounced than during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite being physically secure, jails and prisons are not isolated from the community. Correction staff enter and leave during multiple shifts, new inmates are admitted, and attorneys and visitors flow through with regularity. Correctional facilities remain densely populated and thus present a significant challenge during a pandemic where the leading mechanism of prevention of the spread of the virus is distance between individuals.
The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts has recently addressed the risks inherent in the COVID-19 outbreak as they relate specifically to those held in custody. The Court concluded that certain individuals should be released from custody immediately for their safety and the safety of other inmates, and others may be entitled to release after certain factors are assessed.Immediate Emergency Release of Pretrial Inmates