In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, criminal justice advocates and officials have scrambled to implement safeguards for some of the most vulnerable among us: our incarcerated population. Being confined in close quarters to countless other people with little ventilation makes inmates uniquely vulnerable to catching—and spreading—the coronavirus. In an effort to limit the pandemic’s spread into the U.S. correctional system, Congress passed the CARES Act with specific provisions geared towards protecting inmates and prison personnel. Here are some of the main takeaways of the CARES Act as it applies to incarcerated individuals:
- Allows for more types of federal court proceedings to occur by video and/or telephone conferencing if (and only if) the defendant consents to the remote hearing;
- Permits prisons to release some inmates early to serve more of their sentences through home confinement; and
- Provides the Attorney General and Bureau of Prisons the authority to offer free video and/or telephone conferencing for inmates and their loved ones while social visits are restricted.
It is important to note that the CARES Act only applies to the Bureau of Prisons, meaning the only inmates that would directly benefit from its provisions are federal prisoners. Individuals with pending state cases or serving their sentences through state or county jails are not necessarily guaranteed the same opportunities during this pandemic, unless their state or local officials have enacted similar rules or guidelines.
Have a question about how this crisis might affect your case? Reach out to the Law Office of David P. Shapiro to see what options you may have and begin regaining control of your future today!