Impact of the Coronavirus to the Criminal Justice System
The coronavirus outbreak and pandemic has altered the lives of millions of Americans across the country. Children can longer attend school, adults are not allowed to go to work, the economy is heading toward (if not already there) a major recession, and many other sacrifices asked of all of us.
There is another concern that is not widely reported, but nonetheless extremely important to address: prisoners at county, state and federal level. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world with approximately 2.2 million people in jails and prisons. This accounts for 25% of the entire world’s prison population. This virus could potentially spread extremely rapidly in our overly crowded prison system. Many organizations are calling on governors to commute sentences of those that are “particularly vulnerable” to the virus whose term left to serve is within 2-years. Another recommendation that is sought is to ask police to stop arresting people for minor offenses in order to avoid increasing county jail populations which are particularly ill-equipped to handle an influx of medically related issues. Prisons and jails force thousands of people in close quarters, with limited access to hygiene products. Furthermore, such a widespread breakout would also endanger the lives of correctional officers and staff, not to mention the immense costs of testing and treatment that would be imposed on under-budgeted local communities.
Defense lawyers across the United States have begun to address this issue in several different ways. Baku Patel at Patel Law, P.C., defending those accused of crimes for the past 25 years, is prepared to file motions for his clients who are vulnerable to experience severe, life-threatening symptoms from COVID-19 exposure to be released from pre-trial custody at the state and federal level. Mr. Patel also intends to vigorously defend his clients by advocating against incarceration of any kind for those with such physical issues. Additionally, Mr. Patel would urge prosecutors and judges to approve as many eligible clients as possible for release who are particularly vulnerable such as those with pre-existing conditions, over the age of 60, and are pregnant.
Every one of us are going through major life altering events to combat this pandemic. Several different communities are more susceptible to COVID-19, such as the elderly. As a society, we should also not forget those that are incarcerated while awaiting trial or sentenced to jail for low level, non-violent offenses.