COVID-19 News

Across the nation inmates and staff are increasingly testing positive for COVID-19. If you have a loved on who is incarcerated contact us today to see how we can help.

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CDCR ANNOUNCES PLAN TO COMBAT COVID -19 INCLUDING THE EXPIDITED RELEASE OF INMATES
By Sean R. Francis, M.S.
President, Justice Solutions of America, Inc.
As the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation struggles to contain the spred of...

CDCR ANNOUNCES PLAN TO COMBAT COVID -19 INCLUDING THE EXPIDITED RELEASE OF INMATES

By Sean R. Francis, M.S.
President, Justice Solutions of America, Inc.

 

As the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation struggles to contain the spred of COVID-19 within their institutions they have, like many states, turned to releasing offenders who likely will pose no threat to public safety. Indeed, CDCR and California have been on the front lines in releasing inmates to the community when it can safely be accomplished.

As of March 31, 2020, CDCR has estimated that up to 3,500 inmates across the state would be eligible for expedited transition to parole. The latest release is of around 185 inmates from CDCR custody in Kern County. Officials said the department is preparing on-site multidisciplinary teams at each institution to expedite the pre-release coordination. Officials said review of potential expedited transition would first focus on those with less than 30 days to serve, then those with less than 60 days to serve. According to CDCR the returning individuals would be release to state parole or local probation supervision, or will discharge, depending on their individual sentence. https://www.turnto23.com/news/local-news/cdcr-to-expedite-release-of-185-county-inamtes-to-either-state-parole-or-county-probation

CDCR’s plan includes expediting the transition to parole for eligible inmates who have 60 days or less to serve on their sentences and are not currently serving time for a violent crime as defined by law, a sex offense, or domestic violence. Officials said this plan also includes making more use of the state’s private and public Community Correctional Facilities, as well maximizing open spaces in the prisons, such as gymnasiums, to increase capacity and inmate movement options. https://www.turnto23.com/news/local-news/cdcr-to-expedite-release-of-185-county-inamtes-to-either-state-parole-or-county-probation

In attempts to keep staff and inmates who will remain incarcerated safe CDCR has implemented an additional action plan which include several new measures. These new measures build on many others already taken to reduce the risk of COVID-19 to all who work and live in the state prison system. Those measures include:
o Mandatory verbal and temperature screenings for staff before they enter any institutions and other CDCR work sites
o Suspension of intake from county jails, projected to reduce the population by 3,000 within 30 days
o Suspension of visitation; inmates will get additional free phone calls to their loved ones, made available through a partnership with inmate telephone network provider Global Tel Link (GTL)  
o Suspension of access by volunteers and rehabilitative program providers
o Suspension of inmate movement, other than for critical purposes
o Measures to support increased physical distancing, including reducing the number of inmates who use common spaces at the same time
o Reinforced commitment to hygiene both institutional and personal, including greater availability of soap and hand sanitizer.
o Developed comprehensive health care guidelines based on CDC and CDPH recommendations for correctional settings, which includes procedures for infection control, assessment, testing, treatment, proper use of PPE and quarantine/isolation. Deployed educational materials for staff on the new guidelines, including posters, quick reference pocket guides, webinars and websites.
o Modified the delivery of non-emergent health care procedures such as routine dentals cleanings to redirect supplies of PPE. Created a network among all state-managed facilities to redirect PPE as needed.
o Created handouts, posters and continually updated video messaging for the population about COVID-19 and what CDCR and CCHCS is doing to respond to the virus.

As of April 27th, 2020, there were 178 inmates who have tested positive for COVID-19 and one death.

UTAH FEDERAL COURT FINDS FIRST STEP ACT ALLOWS REDUCTION OF STACKED SENTENCES

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By Sean R. Francis, M.S.
President, Justice Solutions of America


In what is sure to be one of many cases asking the federal courts to clarify the scope of the First Step Act (FSA), the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah has found that the FSA allows judicial relief for stacked sentences.


Mandatory minimums led to a 55-year sentence for 20-year-old Kepa Maumau. After the FSA was passed Maumau sought relief from the district court. In determining that the court had the authority to grant relief the court noted that before the FSA an offender would need the Director of the Bureau of Prisons to motion the court seeking a sentence reduction or compassionate release. 

However, with passage of the FSA this was no longer the case. The BOP now has nothing to do with it and an offender is free to seek relief directly from the district court. https://www.criminallegalnews.org/news/2020/mar/18/utah-district-court-finds-first-step-act-gives-court-authority-reduce-stacked-55-year-924c-sentence/


Maumau argued that the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines allows “…..relief when, “[a]s determined by the Director of the Bureau of Prisons, there exists in the defendant’s case an extraordinary and compelling
reason….” He further argued that “the catch-all provision that limits relief to grounds identified by the Director is inconsistent with the law as outlined in the First Step Act.”


Finding now new policy statement or authority to the contrary the court held that “ this court joins the majority of other district courts that have addressed this issue in concluding that it has discretion to provide [the defendant] with relief, even if his situation does not directly fall within the Sentencing Commission’s current policy statement. Under the First Step Act, it is for the court, not the Director of the Bureau of Prisons, to determine whether there is an ‘extraordinary and compelling reason’ to reduce a sentence.” U.S. v. Maumau, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 28392 ( D. Utah 2020)


The court also rejected the government’s argument that compassionate release is only for the old and frail who are suffering medical issues. Therefore, it would appear that the First Step Act could potentially become a vehicle for many offenders who have suffered under the weight of draconian federal sentencing policies to get some much needed relief.

Mar 30th, 2020

How State Prisons Are Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic

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By Sean R. Francis, M.S.

President, Justice Solutions of America, Inc.

The COVID-19 pandemic seems to have caught the entire world off guard but nowhere is that more apparent than in our nation’s jails and prisons. Indeed, the recent outbreak has placed a number of measures, once considered unthinkable, on the table in an attempt to halt the virus’ spread inside secure institutions. This blog will explore exactly what is being done and what measures are being considered.

Because of the highly contagious nature of COVID-19, many cities and states are reducing admissions to county jails and preventing the constant recycling of people as they come in and out of jails.  https://www.prisonpolicy.org/virusresponse.html

Police are accomplishing this by simply citing low-level offenders instead of arresting them. Other cities have stopped responding to non – violent, low-level crimes. Some states have halted vehicle inspections.  https://www.inquirer.com/health/coronavirus/live/coronavirus-covid19-philadelphia-pennsylvania-new-jersey-confirmed-case-updates-news-20200317.htmlhttps://www.wtvr.com/news/coronavirus/virginia-state-police-will-stop-motor-vehicle-inspection-enforcement-over-covid-19-outbreak

Additionally, in recognition of the significant challenge COVID-19 poses to the community at large, but to an incarcerated community specifically, prosecutors in some states and cities have begun dismissing low-level offenses such as drug, prostitution and trespassing charges. https://www.prisonpolicy.org/virusresponse.html

In another measure to combat COVID-19 multiple states around the country are actively considering releasing non-violent offenders rather than keeping them incarcerated and some have already begun to do so. This is unheard of in recent times. https://www.mercurynews.com/2020/03/19/bay-area-courts-authorities-ramp-up-release-of-inmates-to-stem-covid-19-risks-in-jails/

COVID – 19 also means life will also become more difficult for many offenders in our nation’s prisons. Personal, conjugal and legal visits have been almost completely halted. Therefore, those that are left behind bars will face a greater challenge in maintaining ties to the community, a proven tool to reduce recidivism. They will also lose access to their attorneys which will prevent many from mounting an adequate defense and raise significant constitutional issues.

As if this were not enough, many prisons have completely halted transfers and refused to admit new offenders into their institutions. Thus, sentenced offenders in county jail, a miserable place to be under any circumstances, will be held there indefinitely for the time being.

Also, many prisons have suspended most inmate movement and greatly reduced such essential programing services like recreation and education. Therefore, our nation’s prisons, a dangerous place on any given day, could become a powder keg as inmates with years to serve now have nothing to do but sit in their housing units and stare at the walls. Some prison wardens have openly voiced concern about the prospect of riots and losing control of their institutions. https://abcnews.go.com/Health/fearing-outbreaks-riots-nations-prison-jail-wardens-scramble/story?id=69676840

COVID -19 presents a significant challenge to us all but nowhere is that more apparent than in our nation’s prisons. If you have a loved one who is incarcerated contact us today to see what we can do to help and ensure their safety.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons Response to COVID – 19

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By Sean R. Francis, MS

President, Justice Solutions of America, Inc.

COVID-19 has quickly become a worldwide pandemic and has plunged the United States into a national emergency not seen in recent times. According to the CDC the virus is spread through person to person transmission. Generally, this is recognized as people who are “in close contact with each other.” The CDC considers the virus “highly contagious.” https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/transmission.html

In light of this, it is obvious that our nation’s prisons are potential breeding grounds for this virus to spread like wildfire. Therefore, it is important to understand what measures are being taken to address this. The Federal Bureau of Prisons, with 175,406 inmates, is among the largest prison systems in the world and is a good place to start.

While the BOP has taken some steps to slow the spread of the virus, like halting visitation and inmate transfers, by all accounts they are woefully unprepared for COVID-19 and do not seem to be rising to the occasion.

On March 11th ABC News reported that, while state prison systems were preparing for the worst, the BOP “ doesn’t have the ability to order more cleaning supplies and doesn’t have enough wipes to sanitize the inmate transport buses. The source also said there aren’t enough N95 masks to cover half the staff, adding that most are of small size.” https://abcnews.go.com/US/state-prisons-prepare-coronavirus-federal-prisons-providing-significant/story?id=69433690

Additionally, BOP staff were quoted saying that “there are currently more questions than answers.” BOP refused to provide ABC news with guidance on what they were doing citing the fluid nature of the virus. https://abcnews.go.com/US/state-prisons-prepare-coronavirus-federal-prisons-providing-significant/story?id=69433690

One week later it appears that the COVID – 19 concerns among BOP staff are far from resolved. According to a CBS News story published on March 18th, several BOP staff members are quoted as saying that “their lives are in danger” and that “the agency is in chaos.” https://www.cbsnews.com/news/coronavirus-prison-federal-employees-say-conflicting-orders-putting-lives-at-risk-2020-03-18/

Indeed, some BOP staff have started to test positive for COVID – 19. Therefore, it is simply a matter of time until the staff infects the inmates (if they haven’t done so already) and there is a real crisis in federal institutions across the nation.

Contact Federal Prison Consultants today to learn how we can help your family and your loved one incarcerated in the BOP navigate through this crisis safely.