The ACLU of Missouri, Arch City Defenders, Macarthur Justice, Public Defenders, NAACP, along with criminal justice and health stakeholders send a joint letter to Chief Justice George W. Draper III, Supreme Court of Missouri, urging him to grant relief to the state jail population.

“Action now can avoid death, suffering, and the creation of hundreds more contagious individuals desperately looking for beds in an overburdened healthcare system.

Together, Arch City Defenders, McCarthur Justice Center, and the ACLU of Missouri, in conjunction with criminal justice and health stakeholders, sent Chief Justice Draper a letter urging him to take immediate action and order judges to release from confinement certain groups of inmates during the COVID-19 pandemic. Missouri has now seen confirmed cases in our prison and jail systems, accelerating the need to move swiftly in preventing further harm and transmission of this highly contagious virus.

Jails and prisons are incubators for the proliferation of disease and pose a heightened public health threat. If the State fails to take bold action now, we put the lives of not only inmates but corrections workers, nurses, and doctors, all those involved in Missouri’s justice system, and the public at large in danger through wider community spread.

This week we witnessed the landmark agreement between New Jerseys criminal justice stakeholders to release specific sets of individuals in response to the pandemic. Missouri should follow suit. In New Jersey, judges will determine whether any sentences should be commuted. The Order takes extraordinary steps to prevent unnecessary incarceration or extra interactions with the criminal justice system altogether during this time, such as suspending most outstanding warrants and preventing in-person reporting to probation officers.

Missouri must take similar steps to ensure public safety. “Public health experts agree that our state actors’ failure to act now will not only put the health of those in their custody at risk but will also put the health of the community at large at greater risk.  When the State takes away the freedom of an individual, it has the legal, moral, and ethical duty to protect that individual’s safety, health, and well-being.  Moreover, data confirms that our Black and Brown people are disproportionately represented in every aspect of our criminal justice system, and in failing to act, our State actors are once again putting our marginalized communities at greater risk of harm.” Luz María Henríquez, Executive Director ACLU of Missouri

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