Throughout the United States, there are approximately 2.3 million people behind bars. In Federal, State, and Local jails around the country, thousands of people are now being released early. The reason: coronavirus. Much of the 2.3 million incarcerated individuals are being held on low level offenses, many simply awaiting trial or for their cases to be disposed. Primarily, it is those individuals who now have an avenue to fight for release. Just last month the Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, an organization that Adam is proud to be the President of, joined with the Missouri State Public Defender’s Office and several other organizations in penning a letter sent to the Missouri Supreme Court asking for the release of low level offenders in light of the potentially emergent circumstances.
In the letter sent to the Supreme Court in late March we requested the immediate release from confinement of the following groups of inmates during the pendency of the COVID-19 pandemic: (i) those currently serving sentences in any city or county jail in Missouri pursuant to a conviction for a misdemeanor offense; (ii) those currently serving sentences in any city or county jail in Missouri pursuant to a conviction for a municipal ordinance violation; (iii) those confined pretrial on nonviolent misdemeanor, municipal ordinance violation, or nonviolent C, D, and E felony charges; (iv) those confined on technical probation violations or probation violations based on allegations of a nonviolent felony and (v) those in high risk categories likely to face serious illness or death. Many states such as New Jersey and New York have already adopted such measures, but our Supreme Court has not made any specific ruling on the issue as of yet. Despite the fact that jails, like cruiseships, are petry dishes for highly contagious diseases, many local Sheriff’s voiced concerns over a blanket policy and asked that Courts take a case by case approach. However, it isn’t just the inmates that are at risk. Just last week, Robin Grubbs, a corrections officer at a Bureau of Prisons facility in Atlanta died from complications of coronavirus. There have been cases like this in New Jersey and Ohio as well, among others. Fortunately we have not yet seen the virus enter our jails in Missouri, but it seems only a matter of time. We only hope the Court system is prepared to be proactive if it does.