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Report recommends ways to reduce density of criminal justice system

The report called for COs and incarcerated people to receive early access to the COVID-19 vaccine

By Sarah Calams

WASHINGTON — In a new report, the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice issued several recommendations on reducing the density of the justice system to balance health and public safety.

The Council on Criminal Justice, established and led by former U.S. Attorneys General Loretta Lynch and Alberto Gonzales, said the population density of correctional facilities – coupled with a general lack of preparedness and guidance for leaders – thwarted efforts to control COVID-19. The Commission said leaders must thin incarcerated populations to limit contact and maximize distance.

Other recommendations include:

  • Creating “safety valve” release mechanisms for the medically vulnerable
  • Diverting those with mental health and substance use disorders into public health alternatives
  • Using citations in lieu of arrest for those who do not pose a threat to public safety
  • Developing standards for crisis response
  • Elevating community-based organizations as co-equal players in the criminal justice system
  • Embracing innovation, while ensuring new technologies expand access to justice, protect individual rights and reduce racial and ethnic disparities.

They also called for correctional staff and incarcerated people to receive early access to the COVID-19 vaccine by including them in “Phase 1b” of vaccine distribution.

Currently, more than 220,000 incarcerated individuals and 48,000 correctional staff have tested positive for COVID-19, while more than 1,500 of those individuals and more than 90 staff members have died.

To read the full report, click here or view it in full below.

Experience to Action: Reshaping Criminal Justice After COVID-19