In early March 2020, it became apparent that New York would face a devastating outbreak of COVID-19. Beginning on March 9 and continuing throughout the crisis, New Yorkers United for Justice called for immediate action to protect incarcerated individuals, correctional workers, and court actors such as judges, defense counsel, and prosecutors from an outbreak in our criminal justice system. NYUJ has continuously monitored the situation and surveillance data in New York’s correctional facilities and courts closely, and made ongoing urgent demands of the state to ensure the protection of vulnerable incarcerated populations.
NYUJ’s calls have included a continuance of jury trials, a moratorium on warrants and incarceration for technical violations of parole, a delay on desk appearances for minor violations and traffic violations, and a comprehensive plan from the state to care for incarcerated patients and reduce population density in NY DOCCS facilities. While we saw early successes in our advocacy to close and alter court operations, much work remains to be done to make our correctional facilities safer and healthier for all.
When the crisis abates, NYUJ will develop and publish a comprehensive set of recommendations for courts and correctional facilities to better respond to future public health crises.