Thirty-seven current prosecutors and 12 current and retired police chiefs and sheriffs filed an amicus curiae brief Thursday in support medically vulnerable plaintiffs seeking immediate release or transfer from Elkton Federal Correctional Institution (FCI-Elkton) in Ohio.
Plaintiffs filed a class action lawsuit last month after at least nine individuals in custody died of COVID-19, and hundreds of staff and incarcerated people tested positive. Reports found that FCI-Elkton officials failed to implement and still has no viable plan to combat the outbreak within their facility. The parties within the initial suit, backed by this amicus brief, argue that the only way to respond now is to reduce the incarcerated population dramatically. They argue that no other option remains to mitigate the deadly spread of the coronavirus behind the bars within this facility.
This amicus brief supports upholding the ruling of the US District Court of the Northern District of Ohio, which ordered the release or transfer of more than 800 individuals susceptible to COVID-19. The Trump administration asked the Supreme Court to block this order, but the court denied that request on procedural grounds.
“Amidst this pandemic, our considerations must dramatically shift, and the primary aim of all of us must be saving lives,” said Miriam Krinsky, executive director of Fair and Just Prosecution.
For far too long, some in our criminal justice system have used retributive and excessive sentencing that has made us the leading incarcerator in the world, yields little public safety benefit and now endangers the health and safety of our communities. To save lives and promote a system of justice that truly values compassion and public safety, we must return people who pose no serious public safety risk to their communities – and do so without further delay.”
Investigations unveiled that testing at FCI-Elkton is insufficiently, with at least one in four inmates housed at the federal facility positive with COVID-19. Despite the release order, the conditions remain overly-crowded and unsanitary. The investigation also revealed that available healthcare remains inadequate.
For more on COVID-19, see our special coverage.