Category Archives: Coronavirus

The Increase in Gun Violence Appears To Be The “New Normal”

An expert on trends in gun sales and gun violence in pandemic America

Journalist Martin Kaste reports in NPR that shootings spiked during the Pandemic, and this appears to be the “new normal.”

Hopes for a rapid decline in the pandemic murder spike are fading. Although national statistics for 2022 aren’t yet available, an informal year-to-date tally of murders in major cities is. The total count in those cities has dipped slightly lower than last year, but it’s still well above pre-pandemic levels. And in 40% of the cities listed, homicides are trending higher.

Some of the worst trouble spots are cities such as Philadelphia and Baltimore, where year-to-date homicides are rivaling the high tallies of 2020 and 2021. In Portland, Ore., the mayor has declared an “emergency” over gun violence, as the city struggles to reel in an annual murder count that shot up to 88 in 2021, from 36 in 2019. Even some smaller cities, such as Little Rock, Ark., are in danger of eclipsing last year’s murder numbers.

The Nature of Gun Violence Has Changed

But it’s not just that the numbers remain high. The nature of the gun violence itself has changed, according to those who watch these crimes closely.

“The ’90s was more gang-oriented, there was much more organized, sort of targeted shootings . . . Today, it’s petty offenses, petty conflicts, reckless shootings.” ~King County Prosecutor Elyne Vaught

Vaught says you can see the “rise in reckless-type shootings” in the county statistics, where the number of shots fired has more than doubled, compared to the same period in 2019, and with more shots fired per victim.

According to Kaste’s article, police around the country have noticed this trend. A new report from the Major Cities Chiefs Association points to “incidents of individuals indiscriminately shooting into large crowds while discharging massive amounts of ammunition,” such as the April mass shooting in downtown Sacramento.

The chiefs point to the availability of extended ammunition magazines, as well as the growing popularity of “auto sear” switches, small after-market devices that turn semi-automatic Glock pistols into illegal automatics, capable of spraying bullets. (Similar attachments are also exist for AR-15-style rifles, but police worry more about handguns, which are used far more often in crimes.)

Gun Violence Often Starts Online

Temple University criminologist Jason Gravel, who studies how young people acquire and use guns, says the role of social media may be the biggest change of the last few recent years.

“It might look like some random shooting on the street, but if that was preceded by a bunch of verbal threats online or in social media, you don’t see the first part of the conflict, you just see the end result,” ~ Jason Gravel, Temple University Criminologist.

More Guns Are Available

There may have been more guns around for kids to find. Firearms dealers reported record sales during the pandemic, and a recent article in the Annals of Internal Medicine estimates that 2.9% of U.S. adults became new gun owners. By extension, the authors estimate 5 million children were “newly exposed” to firearms in their households.

It’s hard not to view these incidents as yet another result of America’s polarized gun debate. Many Americans hold their right to bear arms, enshrined in the US Constitution, as sacrosanct. But critics of the Second Amendment say that right threatens another: the right to life.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a Firearm Offense or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Whatcom County Jail Tightens Booking Restrictions

Riverside County jails are so crowded, car thieves and drug dealers are being sent home

Journalist David Rasbach of The Herald reports the Whatcom County Jail has stopped booking people suspected of low-level offenses.

JAIL POPULATIONS HAVE INCREASED

in a letter to local leaders, Sheriff Bill Elfo explained the main reason behind less bookings was an increase in the jail population.

“Since the beginning of 2022, populations at both the Downtown Jail and Work Center have steadily climbed despite increased booking restrictions that were put into place in October of 2021.” ~Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo.

According to recent reports, the current jail population has grown 28% in the last three months. And it’s grown 44% larger than six months earlier.

Today’s population shows an increase over the previous two years during the COVID-19 Pandemic. We’re at or above the levels seen the two summers before the pandemic.

OFFENDER CHARACTERISTICS HAVE CHANGED

“In addition to the number of offenders, the characteristics of the offender population has also changed,” Elfo wrote. He states that approximately 83% of the jail population is now being held on suspicion of a pending felony offenses. Additionally, approximately 42% of the people housed in the jail have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness. Adding to the despair, 80% have an existing substance use disorder.

These behavioral issues has led to an increase in assaultive or self-harming behavior. As a result, fewer people in the jail can be housed with others.

OVERWORKED JAIL CORRECTIONS STAFF

In addition to a growing jail population, Elfo reported that workloads for corrections staff ARE stretched past all reasonable limits due to COVID protocols. There’s also an increasing need for care of vulnerable people housed in the jail, growth of the Medication for Opioid Use Disorder program, more fights and assaults among the jail population and of staff and problems created by an aging and sometimes failing facility.

Whatcom County is currently trying to fill 11 correction deputy vacancies, or approximately 16% of the full-time staff that it is budgeted for. According to Elfo, this has created the need for mandated unvolunteered overtime and mandatory callbacks to work. The current workloads, a perceived sense of apathy and new demands have taken their toll.

To help mitigate some of the challenges Elfo mentioned in the letter, he reported that Whatcom County is negotiating to contract for 45 beds in Snohomish County. Elfo wrote that he anticipated an agreement soon and would submit an interlocal agreement and supplemental budget request to the Whatcom County Executive and county council in June.

My opinion? It’s in our best interests for Whatcom County to construct a new, better jail. We must hire more jail deputies and train them to manage today’s jail population. And we must improve conditions for all, including the jail staff who oversee the incarcerated.

Buck up, taxpayers.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime and incarcerated. Making bail and hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Washington Traffic Fatalities Hit 20-Year High

US road deaths rise at record pace as risky driving persists - ABC News

Excellent artice by journalist Becca Robbins reports that Washington traffic fatalities hit a 20-year high in 2021. This comes as recent data from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission shows last year’s total traffic deaths was 633 people.

That rate outpaces 574 fatal crashes in 2020 and 538 in 2019, the agency’s data shows. Of those killed in 2021, 300 of them were drivers, 141 were pedestrians, 108 were passengers and 93 were motorcyclists.

Clark County also continued to see high rates of fatal crashes, with 36 people killed last year. In 2020, 40 people died locally in car crashes and 26 died in 2019, data from the commission shows. In the county, 13 drivers were killed in 2021, as well as 10 passengers, seven pedestrians and six motorcyclists.

The commission said in a news release that statewide data from the first quarter of this year shows 2022 is on track to surpass last year’s record rate.

It is promoting a “community-based” approach to curb the increase in fatal crashes and encourages people to talk about traffic safety with each other. The agency is beginning a summer ad campaign, which it says coincides with the time of year that sees an increase in crashes.

“The increase in deaths on our roads is tragic, but we all have the power to reverse the trend . . . Most of us use roads safely, and we can also influence the smaller number of people who engage in risky behavior. Take an extra step and help someone close to you be safe, too. It’s as simple as reminding them to buckle their seat belt or put their phone away when they drive.” ~Mark McKechnie, Director of External Relations, Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC)

Traffic deaths have spiked nationally, with nearly 43,000 people killed on U.S. roads last year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The tally marked the highest number in 16 years.

The 10.5 percent jump over 2020 numbers was the largest percentage increase since the NHTSA began its fatality data collection system in 1975. Nearly 118 people died in U.S. traffic crashes every day last year, according to the agency’s figures.

WHY THE INCREASE IN TRAFFIS DEATHS?

The NHTSA has blamed reckless driving behavior for increases during the COVID-19 pandemic, citing behavioral research showing that speeding and traveling without a seat belt have increased. Before 2019, the number of fatalities had fallen for three straight years, The Associated Press reported.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has pledged help and released a national strategy earlier this year, aimed at reversing the trend, which he calls a crisis. He told AP in January his department over the next two years will provide federal guidance, as well as billions in grants under President Joe Biden’s new infrastructure law, to spur states and localities to lower speed limits and embrace safer road design, such as dedicated bike and bus lanes, better lighting and crosswalks. The strategy also urges the use of speed cameras, which the department says could provide more equitable enforcement than police traffic stops.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with Reckless Driving or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Drug Overdose Deaths Hit Highest Level On Record

U.S. drug overdose deaths hit record 107,000 last year

According to provisional data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug overdoses in the United States were deadlier than ever in 2021.

Nearly 108,000 people died of drug overdoses in 2021, and about two-thirds of those deaths involved fentanyl or another synthetic opioid. Overdose deaths have been on the rise for years in the US, but surged amid the Covid-19 Pandemic. Annual deaths were nearly 50% higher in 2021 than in 2019, CDC data shows.

The spike in overdose deaths in the second year of the pandemic wasn’t as quite as dramatic as in the first year: Overdose deaths were up about 15% between 2020 and 2021, compared with a 30% jump between 2019 and 2020. But the change is still stark. In 2021, about 14,000 more people died of overdose deaths in than in 2020, the CDC data shows.

“This is indeed a continuation of an awful trend. Rates of overdose deaths have been on an upward climb for decades now, increasing at unprecedented rates right before the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in the U.S.” ~Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The pandemic accelerated trends that were already heading in the wrong direction, and experts say that reversing course will require concentrated efforts — and it will take time, both strategically and ideologically.

Treatment for drug abuse was lacking even before the pandemic. In 2019, more than 20 million people ages 12 and older reported having a substance abuse disorder, only 10% of whom reported receiving care, according to a report from the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

And a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation cites evidence that access and utilization of these services has gotten even worse during the pandemic.

The illicit drug supply in the US has also seen a “massive shift” over the past two decades. Increasing use of synthetic drugs caught the attention of experts before Covid-19 hit, but the pandemic may have exacerbated the problem. With international travel limited, synthetics that are easier to manufacture and more concentrated were likely more efficient to smuggle across borders, Volkow said.

Overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, psychostimulants such as methamphetamine, and cocaine all increased between 2020 and 2021, according to the new CDC data. Deaths involving natural or semi-synthetic drugs, such as prescription drugs, fell slightly from the year prior.

My opinion? This is a devastating milestone in the history of the overdose epidemic in America. When we report numbers, we must remember that each number represents an individual, their families, and their communities. Compounding the issue is the fact that the WA Supreme Court struck down Washington felony drug possession law. In the wake of the Blake decision on February 25, people can no longer be arrested for simple drug possession in Washington state.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a Drug Offense or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Crowded Jail Cells

Coronavirus spreads in California prisons: Latest cases | The Sacramento Bee

Great article by senior reporter for Newsweek reports that crowded cells in jails across the U.S. could help the rapid spread of Coronavirus. Top Democratic senators have accordingly asked prison authorities to reveal what contingency plans there are to tackle any outbreak.

According to the article, The Sentencing Project has called on public officials to release people in jail who do not pose a public safety risk. This jail population includes those housed in pre-trial detention or rehabilitated people.

“Existing unsanitary and overcrowded prison and jail conditions will exacerbate the spread of the new coronavirus . . . Elderly incarcerated people often pose little public safety risk but disproportionately suffer from chronic medical conditions and thus are at the highest risk of dying from COVID-19.” ~The Sentencing Project senior research analyst Nazgol Ghandnoosh

Ghandnoosh emphasized that time is of the essence to avert a public health catastrophe in the United States’ prisons and jails.

The sentiment echoes concerns voiced by other prisoners’ rights advocates, who fear the implications the virus will have for the 2.2 million people living in the U.S. penal system.

Last week, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers president Nina Ginsberg said in a statement that, given the spread of the virus: “There is every reason to question whether American detention facilities, as a whole, are up to this challenge.”

Meanwhile, Maria Morris of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) National Prison Project wrote in an op-ed this week that jails were not closed environments, and had staff and visitors coming into the facilities and returning home, posing a considerable risk.

Also, top Democrats signed a letter asking the Federal Bureau of Prisons about its coronavirus plans. presidential contender Senator Bernie Sanders, and former primary candidates Senators Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren were among the signees. The letter, which was also addressed to prison operators GEO Group, CoreCivic, and Management and Training Corporation, asked if staff and inmates who may be vulnerable have been identified, how they will be treated if they test positive and how staff shortages caused by the virus will be dealt with.

My opinion? Kudos to those involved in these efforts. Protecting incarcerated people during a contagious health crisis by expediting releases would reduce the burden on prison staff. It would also reduce demand for limited hospital resources which are shared with the broader public.

Please read Making Bail and contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged and jailed. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Attorney-Client Communications During COVID

Defendant in credit union robbery makes initial appearance | News, Sports, Jobs - Messenger News

This is an interesting case that arose in the early days of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

In State v. Anderson, the WA Court of Appeals held that courts must try to ensure that criminal defendants are able to confidentially communicate with counsel throughout court proceedings. Failure to provide a confidential means to communicate may be grounds for reversal on appeal.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

In 2016, a Franklin County jury convicted Mr. Anderson of multiple felonies including murder, assault, and unlawful possession of a firearm. Mr. Anderson received a sentence of 1,126 months’ imprisonment with 36 months’ community custody, and was assessed $75,430.49 in restitution. A portion of the restitution was imposed jointly and severally with two codefendants.

Three specific issues were identified for resentencing: a vague community custody
condition, two scrivener’s errors, and imposition of discretionary legal financial
obligations in light of Mr. Anderson’s indigence.

A re-sentencing hearing was scheduled to address some concerns Mr. Anderson raised. His resentencing took place in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Washington’s governor declared a state of emergency on February 29, 2020. Shortly thereafter, our Supreme Court began issuing a series of emergency orders addressing court operations during the pandemic. On April 29, 2020, the Supreme Court
issued an order that specified as follows:

Courts must allow telephonic or video appearances for all scheduled criminal and juvenile offender hearings whenever possible. For all hearings that involve a critical stage of the proceedings, courts shall provide a means for defendants and respondents to have the opportunity for private and continual discussion with their attorney.

Mr. Anderson attended the May 12 resentencing hearing via video. His attorney appeared telephonically. The hearing was very brief, generating only seven substantive pages of a report of proceeding. During the hearing, there was no discussion regarding whether Mr. Anderson had consented to appear via video.

Nor was there any clarification about whether Mr. Anderson and his attorney were able to communicate throughout the hearing. The parties agreed to modify the judgment and sentence according to the three issues identified in our prior decision. When addressed by the court, Mr. Anderson confirmed he agreed with the modifications.

At the hearing’s close, the court asked Mr. Anderson if he had been able to hear and understand the proceedings. Mr. Anderson responded affirmatively, but also asked how he was supposed to pay the outstanding restitution. The court instructed Mr. Anderson to confer with his attorney. Mr. Anderson subsequently asked the court how long he had to appeal the decision. The court told him that he had 30 days to make a direct appeal, and that he should speak to his attorney regarding the process. The hearing then adjourned.

Mr. Anderson filed a timely notice of appeal. He argues the videoconference resentencing hearing deprived him of his right to be present and to confer with counsel.

COURT’S ANALYSIS & CONCLUSIONS

The Court of Appeals began by saying the right to counsel applies to all critical stages of criminal proceedings, including resentencing.

“The constitutional right to counsel demands more than just access to a warm body with a bar card,” said the Court. “Among other things, it requires individuals charged with crimes to be able to confer privately with their attorneys at all critical stages of the proceedings.” It further reasoned that the ability for attorneys and clients to consult privately need not be seamless, but it must be meaningful. “It is the role of the judge make sure that attorneys and clients have the opportunity to engage in private consultation.”

The Court relied on State v. Gonzalez-Morales, a WA Supreme Court case with similar issues. In Gonzalez-Morales, the defendant’s rights were violated when the trial court failed to give him an interpreter to communicate with his attorney.

“Mr. Anderson argues his case fails to meet the constitutional standard recognized
in Gonzales-Morales,” said the Court of Appeals. “We agree.”

“Unlike what happened in Gonzales-Morales, the trial court here never set any ground rules for how Mr. Anderson and his attorney could confidentially communicate during the hearing. Nor were Mr. Anderson and his attorney physically located in the same room, where they might have been able to at least engage in nonverbal communication.

Given Mr. Anderson participated by video from the jail and his attorney was appearing by telephone from a separate location, it is not apparent how private attorney-client communication could have taken place during the remote hearing. It is unrealistic to expect Mr. Anderson to assume he had permission to interrupt the judge and court proceedings if he wished to speak with his attorney.” ~WA Court of Appeals

Despite the communication obstacles, the Court nevertheless held Mr. Anderson was not entitled to relief because of harmless error. It also said that although Mr. Anderson was not entitled to relief, this case is a cautionary tale for trial judges administering remote criminal proceedings:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has complicated the administration of justice in innumerable ways. Videoconferencing has been an essential component of continued court operations. But courts must ensure videoconferencing occurs in a way that allows for private attorney client consultation. The best method is to arrange for attorneys and clients to be located in a shared physical space, with access to additional communication technologies (such as text messaging devices) if necessary to maintain physical distancing.”

My opinion? The COVID-19 Pandemic has certainly increased the difficulty of practicing law. Courtroom proceedings went virtual or were put on hold, causing delays in justice. Law schools and bar exams were upended. The shift was dramatic. We’ve had to learn new technologies and skills. We’ve had to revolve our practice to adhere and comply with new Executive Orders from our courts. And In the face of change and challenge, we do what American lawyers have done since lawyers helped found this country: we choose to get to work to help to solve the problems before us.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

WA State Patrol Employees Lose Jobs For Refusing to Vaccinate

Unvaccinated Cops Should Be Fired; Use Their Salaries on Public Health

Today’s press release from the WA State Patrol reports that 127 people employed by WSP were separated from employment for refusing to get COVID-19 vaccines.

Those leaving include 67 troopers, six sergeants, one captain and 53 civil servants, according to the announcement.

The departures from the State Patrol are spread across the state. Over the next few days, leaders plan to gauge the impact of the departures and move resources where necessary. The State Patrol plans to make similar adjustments for departures from its civilian jobs and is looking to fill vacancies “as soon as possible.”

Longer term, the WSP will continue recruiting and plans to fill three classes of police academy cadets in the coming months.

WSP Chief John R Batiste said the State Patrol will do its best to keep staff from becoming overburdened from the departures. “We have the responsibilities of the agency to carry forward and I am not going to ask you to do more with less,” said Batiste in the press release.

About two weeks ago, WSP said 93 percent of its 2,200 employees had been vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Seattle Times. Gov. Jay Inslee’s office said last week that across Washington, more than 90 percent of state workers had been vaccinated. Inslee announced in August that state employees, health care employees and school workers must be vaccinated or provide proof of medical or religious exemption by Oct. 18. According to the Associated Press, the mandate is believed to be among the strictest in the nation and covers more than 800,000 workers.

In other related news, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that police officers should get vaccinated against COVID-19 to protect themselves and others.

Police unions across the country have urged members to resist vaccine requirements for their jobs. But Fauci said police officers should view vaccination as a key part of their job:

“Think about the implications of not getting vaccinated when you’re in a position where you have a responsible job, and you want to protect yourself because you’re needed at your job, whether you’re a police officer or a pilot or any other of those kinds of occupations.” Dr. Anthony Fauci,  Fox News Sunday.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Courts Are Clogged

Courts struggling with massive backlog because of pandemic

Excellent article by Denver Pratt of the Bellingham Herald describes how Whatcom County will use federal relief funds to aid courts in the growing backlog of cases that have transpired since the Coronavirus Pandemic.

According to Pratt, Whatcom County approved spending nearly $600,000 of federal relief funds to address the backlog of cases burdening the Whatcom County court system. The Whatcom County Council approved $598,319 for the county’s criminal justice and court system from the American Rescue Plan Act, the nearly $2 trillion pandemic relief measure that U.S. President Joe Biden signed in March.

Whatcom County will see roughly $44.5 million from the coronavirus pandemic relief measure. The funds are able to be used for three years. The money was part of a $1.6 million budget amendment  that the Whatcom County Council passed.

Apparently, Whatcom County’s court system is facing a  growing backlog of unresolved court cases stalled by the Coronavirus Pandemic. The money approved by the county council is an attempt to address those issues.

According to Pratt, the $598,319 will get distributed as follows:

▪ Whatcom County Clerk’s Office will receive $18,611 for a specialty court clerk.

▪ Whatcom County District Court will receive $88,178 for a clerk and a receptionist.

▪ The Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office will receive $99,419 for two attorneys, one victim-witness coordinator and one legal assistant.

▪ The Whatcom County Public Defender’s Office will receive $262,506 for four attorneys, two investigators, one behavioral health specialist and two legal assistants.

▪ Whatcom County Superior Court will receive $129,605 for a court commissioner and a judicial assistant.

Due to an overload of cases, the Whatcom Public Defender’s Office has had to return cases to the county’s Office of Assigned Counsel for the first time. From January 2020 through July of this year, the public defender’s office sent back 609 felony cases and 115 District Court cases. That’s a marked increase from years prior, where in 2018, 34 cases total were returned, and 2019, 118 cases total were returned, the data shows.

Pratt also reports that the county also has 11 attorneys on contract to provide outside indigent defense, which includes lawyers from outside Whatcom County for the first time, The Herald previously reported. The return of cases of the Office of Assigned Counsel has led to the county’s budget for contracted indigent defense being almost used up as of mid-August.

My opinion? The Public Defender’s Office has skilled, hardworking attorneys. And obviously, they’re an extremely busy office. Criminal charges are nothing to contend with or take lightly. Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. It’s important to hire an effective and competent defense attorney with the time and capacity to work your case.

Has Crime Increased?

Despite Crime Rate Decrease, Majority of Americans Think It Is Increasing

Very interesting article from freelance reporter Robert Cherry of The Hill.  It posits that although many individuals have benefitted from justifiable changes in bail and sentencing, crime has also increased.

Hill reports that in 2020, Philadelphia homicides totaled 499 — 40 percent above the previous year and just below a peak number of 500 in 1990, when the city’s population was virtually the same as today. And through July, Philadelphia is on pace to break its homicide record.

Also according to Hill, in January 2021 alone, there were 59 car-jackings, up from 18 at the same time last year, according to the Philadelphia Police Department — a more than threefold increase. There were 404 car-jackings in 2020, up from 225 in 2019 and 230 in 2018, according to the department.

A similar dynamic occurred in Chicago. As reported in 2018, Car-jackings have nearly tripled since 2015, with an increasing share committed by juveniles, thanks to a law exempting young carjackers from adult penalties.

Has crime increased?

Yes, according the U.S Department of Justice. It released a report stating that crime increased significantly in 2020. And according to an article from CNN, major American cities saw a 33% increase in homicides last year. The reasons?  The Coronavirus Pandemic, protests against racial injustice and police brutality, and the economy collapsing are all factors.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Another Jail Outbreak

Cut COVID-19 risks NC jails and prisons | Raleigh News & Observer

Great article by Stacia Glenn of the News Tribune discusses how a COVID-19 outbreak in Pierce County Jail has up to 35 inmates testing positive.

The outbreak means the jail will only allow people arrested on suspicion of violent crimes to be booked. That includes murder, manslaughter, first-degree assault, rape, child molestation, kidnapping, child assault, domestic violence and possessing explosive devices.

Pierce County jail staff medically screens every person before they are booked. Inmates are provided with masks and given daily screenings and temperature checks, according to the jail’s website. And apparently, all three vaccines are also offered at the jail’s health clinic.

Ms. Glenn reports that since the pandemic started through June 2021, at least 398,627 people in prisons have tested positive for COVID-19, according to The Marshall Project. However, Ms. Glenn also reports that number is believed to be less than accurate. Most recently, there are approximately 6,254 positive tests for inmates in Washington state.

Prisons and jails frequently suffer from overcrowding. Even in the best of times they are, by definition, facilities where people are placed in close contact with each other on a near-constant basis. Factor in the unique health challenges faced by incarcerated people and the limited availability of quality healthcare, and it’s no surprise that correctional facilities are uniquely vulnerable to diseases such as Covid-19.

Correctional administrators have limited control over how long people spend incarcerated, but they can use what authority they possess to release people outright or direct people to less restrictive forms of confinement. They can also ease conditions of confinement and increase access to health products. Some correctional authorities have already begun this work.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage the country, and particularly its incarcerated populations, government actors have turned their attention to vaccine distribution as the solution to this health crisis. Though some states have explicitly included incarcerated individuals in their vaccination plans, many have not yet provided information as to how and when those behind bars will be granted access to this protection.

Please review my Legal Guide titled Making Bail and contact my office if you, a friend or family member are jailed and charged with a crime during this COVID-19 Pandemic. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the best step toward justice. Nowadays, it may save your life.