The ACLU-CT supports House Bill 6738 as one of the many necessary steps to ensuring that no one ever dies in DOC custody during a public health crisis again. By providing a clear path and more appropriate health risk assessment for times when there is a public health emergency, the revised compassionate release standard could save lives—if only governmental agencies cared to do so. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread inside the Connecticut Department of Correction (DOC), Connecticut’s prisons and jails were not healthy places. In January 2020, 72 people were held at Northern Correctional Institution in conditions that were deemed literally torture by a United Nations Special Rapporteur. Conditions in the DOC had led to epidemic levels of Hepatitis C3 and HIV/AIDS for years. But when COVID-19 hit, DOC prisons and jails hit an entirely new level of unhealthy. Over the course of the pandemic to date, nineteen people have died from COVID-19 after becoming infected in DOC custody.
HB 6738, An Act Concerning Compassionate or Medical Parole and Credits Awarded for Release During an Emergency Declaration