HARTFORD – In a letter sent to the Rules Committee of the Connecticut Judicial Branch, the ACLU of Connecticut requested committee members consider changing pre-trial release rules as a public health measure during the COVID-19 pandemic. Included with the request was a letter from Connecticut medical professionals and experts in infectious disease and prison populations. In the request for an emergency rules change, the ACLU of Connecticut asked the Judicial Branch to consider:
- Limiting financial conditions of release, such as bail, to only those cases in which the person’s unique circumstances require or there is no other way to ensure their court appearance, and preventing financial conditions from being imposed on people who are symptomatic, have a positive diagnosis, or are in a vulnerable risk category
- Adding COVID-19 considerations to the list of bases for requests for bail modification, and requiring motions made on the basis of the pandemic be heard within 48 hours
- Shortening the time for the court to review someone’s pre-trial detention to seven days, and require subsequent reviews automatically occur every seven days
“The ACLU of Connecticut is gravely concerned that people charged with crimes continue to be given pre-trial financial obligations, frequently resulting in their detention in one of the densest congregate living arrangements in existence: prison. As of today, about 3,000 people are detained in Connecticut’s prison system for inability to meet bond,” wrote ACLU of Connecticut legal director Dan Barrett.
“The risk posed by infectious diseases in jails and prisons is significantly higher than in the community, both in terms of risk of transmission, exposure, and harm to individuals who become infected,” wrote the medical professionals. “Based on the publicly available information, our experience working on public health in Connecticut’s jails and prisons and our review of the relevant literature, it is our professional judgment that these facilities are dangerously under-equipped and ill-prepared to prevent and manage a COVID-19 outbreak, which would result in severe harm to detained individuals, jail and prison staff, and the broader community.”
“Reducing the size of the population in CDOC facilities, and avoiding introducing new people to the system, is crucially important to reducing the level of risk both for those within those facilities and for the community at large. Based on current staffing levels in CDOC (including correctional health staffing levels), and based on our experience working within correctional facilities and with affected populations, we do not believe that screening, social distancing, and quarantining measures can be sufficiently employed within CDOC facilities to combat the spread of this virus,” the medical professionals went on to write.
For a copy of the emergency request, including the letter from medical professionals: