STOP THE SPREAD OF COVID-19 IN COLORADO JAILS AND PRISONS
Experts are sounding the alarm of the public health threat that prisons and jails pose during this pandemic. There is a heightened risk of infection for people who are involved in the criminal legal system – people living in it, people working in it, and the communities they return home to. It is not a question of if the COVID-19 virus will take hold in Colorado’s prisons and jails; it’s a matter of when. We need everyone’s help to save lives.
March 17, 2020 – Letter to the Governor
ACLU of Colorado and eight criminal justice and indigent defense organizations sent a letter to Governor Polis and Chief Justice Coats, among others, urging immediate action to address the heightened risk of COVID-19 spreading to incarcerated individuals, correctional staff and, ultimately, the public.
March 19, 2020 – Letter to Colorado Juvenile Justice Officials
ACLU of Colorado and eleven organizations sent a letter to Colorado juvenile justice officials outlining immediate actions to take to protect incarcerated children.
March 22, 2020 – Letter from an Infectious Disease Expert
Dr. Carlos Franco-Paredes, an infectious disease expert at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, sent a letter to policymakers, judicial officers, sheriffs, wardens and parole boards, stating his concerns about the spread of COVID-19 in jails and prisons.
“The conditions in these facilities do not allow for appropriate infection control protocols and will make the current COVID-19 pandemic worse. Incarcerated populations have higher rates of underlying illness and, by extension, will have a higher case fatality rate.”
March 24, 2020 – Governor Polis’ Guidance to Law Enforcement
Governor Polis issued guidance to Colorado counties, municipalities, law enforcement agencies and detentions centers, emphasizing the need to incarcerate fewer people in the wake of the COVID-19 public health crisis.
March 25, 2020 – Our Statement on the Governor’s Guidance
ACLU of Colorado released a statement commending Governor Polis for putting science and public health above politics by urging localities to take immediate action to safely and substantially reduce the jail population. We called upon the Chief Justice to ensure that every judge responds with equal haste to lower jail populations across the state.
March 25, 2020 – Governor Polis Issues an Executive Order
The Governor issued and Executive Order to aid in lowering the prisoner population in state prisons and community corrections. Polis’ action suspended state laws to increase the authority of the Executive Director of the Department of Corrections to release certain incarcerated people.
March 26, 2020 – Letter to Colorado Sheriffs
ACLU of Colorado sent a letter to all Colorado sheriffs to collectively help stop the spread of COVID-19 by safely and swiftly reducing the jail population.
April 3, 2020 – Coalition Files Lawsuit
The Office of the Colorado State Public Defender, Colorado Criminal Defense Bar and the Office of Alternate Defense Counsel filed two emergency petitions today asking the Colorado Supreme Court to take immediate action to limit the spread of COVID-19 in Colorado jails. The ACLU of Colorado, Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, Disability Law Colorado, Colorado Lawyers Committee and the Lawyers Civil Rights Coalition joined the petition as parties in interest.
We must immediately reduce the numbers of people in immigration detention, starting by releasing the most vulnerable to serious illness or death. These detention centers are often crowded and lack basic sanitation supplies, with no way to practice social distancing and mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Public health experts tell us that, once an outbreak occurs in detention, it will spread quickly and devastatingly.