COVID-19 and Criminal Justice

COVID-19 and Face Mask Spray Painted in Black on a White WallThe National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice, established by the Council on Criminal Justice, released an interim report addressing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the justice system. This report provides a set of recommendations for immediate action in helping the justice system to manage the current crisis. Based on best available facts and evidence, the report includes testimony from a range of stakeholders, including formerly incarcerated people and corrections officials who firsthand experienced the challenges of COVID-19 behind bars.

In setting actionable guidance on how to respond immediately and directly to the pandemic, the Commission offers the following cross-sector recommendations:

  • Stop exponential growth of COVID-19 by consistently implementing and enforcing scientifically proven measures, including physical distancing, universal masking, and mass testing.
  • Communicate transparently in addressing the pandemic with staff, justice-involved populations and their families, and the public.
  • Limit contact, maximize distance, and reduce density whenever possible, including limiting custodial arrests, reducing admissions to and increasing releases from jails and prisons.
  • Allocate resources strategically instead of conducting across-the-board budgetary cuts.
  • Engage impacted communities in all decision-making by encouraging regular input from disproportionally impacted groups.

In addition to the interim report, the Commission will release a subsequent report by the end of 2020 offering consensus recommendations on broader implications of the pandemic and systematic police reforms. Furthermore, since its establishment in late July, the Commission published several reports assessing the impact of COVID-19 on crime rates, correctional budgets, domestic violence, and jail and prison populations.

For more information on related topics, visit the HSDL Featured Topics on Pandemics and Epidemics or view other resources included in the COVID-19 Special Collection. Please note that an HSDL login is required to view some of these resources.

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