Mar 20, 2020 Reduce jail populations during pandemic says Fairfax criminal lawyer
Reduce jail populations to save inmates’ and the public’s health, says Fairfax criminal defense lawyer
Reduce jail populations during this pandemic. As a Fairfax criminal lawyer, I know that doing so not only helps the health of inmates, but also reduces the risks of inmate unrest and rioting, and helps the health of jail employees, the general population, and judicial personnel who get exposed to criminal defendants.
The current health crisis underlines how costly it is not to reduce jailing, and how archaic it is to limit court filings to hand delivery and mailing
If there is anything good that has come from this pandemic, it is recent efforts by numerous prosecutors around the nation supporting alternatives to incarceration and to reduce inmate populations for non-dangerous criminal defendants. On top of that, this public health crisis is spurring more courts to allow lawyers under various circumstances to participate for hearings by phone and to file court documents by methods beyond hand delivery and mailing.
The pandemic justifies less pretrial detention, more non-incarceration sentencing alternatives, and a demerit system for pretrial and probation violations
Incarcerating people warehouses them. As a Fairfax criminal defense lawyer, I know that the vast majority of jail and prison inmates will ultimately be released. If released inmates do not have the skills to adjust to being in the general population — on top of having a scarlet letter for their convictions and incarceration length — their risk increases of being maladjusted to society’s detriment upon release. If they have serious communicable diseases upon release, the situation is even worse. We need to reduce our national inmate population in jails and prisons.
Before rushing to incarcerate people for alleged pretrial and probation violations, the carrot and stick approach can be used to cajole and pressure them into compliance and to reduce inmate populations, including rewarding them for compliance (for instance by easing pretrial and probation supervision conditions) and issuing demerit points and other non-incarceration penalties for noncompliance.
Current trends in reducing jail populations, and citing rather than arresting for alleged crimes
I deeply thank my sister and brother criminal defense lawyers who are pushing for the early incarceration release of their clients to reduce their pandemic infection risk, and to obtain incarceration alternatives for criminal defendants being sentenced. As an example of the effort to reduce jail populations, in neighboring Prince William County on March 19, 2020, a criminal defense lawyer colleague delivered to judges and the chief prosecutor this letter signed by me and many of my colleagues, urging efforts to trim the jail population through alternatives to pretrial detention and through earlier release of convicted inmates. Thanks to chief county prosecutor Amy Ashworth and governor Northam for joining in this proactive approach.
Let alternatives to incarceration continue beyond this pandemic
Our society is better than the authoritarian approach of massively incarcerating so many presumed-innocent people awaiting their trial dates, and imposing excessive jail sentences for victimless and lower level crimes. The efforts to reduce inmate populations that will be practiced in response to this pandemic will prove themselves not only to be very workable and much less costly than incarceration that even non-bleeding heart people will see the sensibility of working for a trend of lower incarceration levels.
Fairfax criminal lawyer Jonathan L. Katz pursues your best defense in the Northern Virginia courts against felony, misdemeanor and DWI prosecutions. Our law firm remains fully open and staffed during this pandemic. For a confidential consultation with Jon Katz about your criminal case, please call 703-383-1100.