ACLU-DE and the Coalition for Smart Justice Urge Carney to Protect the Prison Population from COVID-19 Outbreaks

Affiliate: ACLU of Delaware
March 24, 2020 2:00 pm

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The American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware and the Delaware Coalition for Smart Justice sent a letter to Governor John Carney today urging immediate action to protect one of Delaware’s most vulnerable populations: those living and working in correctional facilities.

The Department of Justice and Department of Correction play key roles in minimizing the effects of COVID-19 in Delaware, because they can downsize the footprint of Delaware’s prison population and minimize new touchpoints to the criminal legal system. These steps are necessary to protect all Delawareans, including those living and working in our correctional facilities, police departments, and the general public—because once COVID-19 enters one of our correctional facilities, it will be almost impossible to contain.

The letter, signed by over 40 statewide organizations, identifies this population as one of the most at-risk for the devastating effects of a COVID-19 outbreak and further explains how an outbreak in one of Delaware’s prisons is a serious public health concern. It asks the Governor to take three steps to ensure the safety of those living and working in Delaware’s correctional facilities:

  • Grant immediate commutation or issue an executive order to release, where it is in line with public safety and the success of the inmate, anyone who:
    • is identified by the CDC as particularly vulnerable (over the age of 60 and individuals with immune deficiencies, chronically ill, infirmed) whose sentence would end in the next two years;
    • has a sentence would end in the next 6 months;
    • is being held pre-trial for inability to post bail; and
    • is incarcerated on a probation revocation based on a technical violation.
  • Direct the Delaware Department of Correction to coordinate with local service providers to ensure that people released from prison have a safe, accessible place to live, a liveable income, and access to healthcare.
  • Direct all criminal legal system agencies and actors who are part of the state’s coronavirus response maintain transparency and release timely, public information about any plans to ensure the safety of those who live and work in Delaware’s correctional facilities, where it is appropriate to do so.

Dubard McGriff, Manager of ACLU-DE’s Campaign for Smart Justice, urges Governor Carney to take action now. “What happens next with Delaware’s prison response to COVID-19 will be a defining moment in the state’s legacy of criminal justice reform. We need to act now.”

If you would like to take action on this issue, ACLU-DE has published an action guide with calls to action, social media graphics, sample scripts, and messaging points.

The Coalition for Smart Justice is a statewide group of organizations and individuals who advocate for a criminal justice system that fosters public safety by reducing mass incarceration, recidivism and racial disparities. Through legislative reform, public education, community organizing and grass roots advocacy the Coalition challenges policy makers to create change that will have a significant positive impact on individuals, families and communities.

A copy of our letter can be found on our website here:

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