The Marshall Project
Opening Statement
March 25, 2020
Edited by Andrew Cohen
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Pick of the News

TMPNo, your coronavirus quarantine isn’t like being in prison. Jerry Metcalf is about halfway through a 40- to 60-year prison sentence in Michigan and wants you to know that your new life “social distancing” in your home isn’t like being behind bars. You have your own bathroom and kitchen. You have access to cleaning products. You have your belongings with you and you can actually keep to yourself. Metcalf? “I now live in a death trap,” he writes, facing “a virus that is airborne and most affects people in confined, overcrowded spaces” like a prison. Here is the latest in our “Life Inside” series. The Marshall Project More From TMP: Our coronavirus tracker, updated with data about court closures. The Marshall Project

Coronavirus and criminal justice. About 1,700 prisoners released so far from Los Angeles County jails. CBS News New York officials to release 300 prisoners from Rikers Island. The Hill“It’s absolutely impossible to practice social distancing in prison,” says a man serving 25 to life at Sing Sing prison in New York. Thousands of prisoners like him are awaiting the arrival of the virus, if it isn’t already there. The New Yorker First positive test for a prisoner in Texas. Texas Tribune Related: Corrections officials in Iowa plan to speed up the release of 700 prisoners eligible for parole. Times-Republican 25 prisoners released from Tennessee jails. Officials say dozens more will follow. Nashville Scene Still no public plans for COVID-19 response from Connecticut prison officials, despite a first positive test there. CT Mirror

Mandatory quarantine for all new federal prisoners. The Bureau of Prisons has imposed a 14-day quarantine for all new people entering the federal system. The Wall Street Journal The chief justice of the Kentucky Supreme Court begged state court officials to release jail inmates to avoid a COVID-19 outbreak. So far, he’s mostly been blown off. Lexington Herald-Leader South Carolina’s special state police are spending less time investigating crime and more time on crowd control. The State All criminal trials in California are now halted, for at least two months, the state Supreme Court ruled. Los Angeles Times Related: At least 200 NYPD members have tested positive for COVID-19; nearly 3,000 New York cops have called out sick. New York Post

More on COVID-19. At least 10 ICE detainees, and hundreds of ICE and Customs and Border Protection employees, were in quarantine last week, a leaked government document shows. The Nation ICE announces first positive test for an immigration detainee, in New Jersey. Bergen Record Not enough protective gear, not enough communication with prisoners, worries mount inside jail in Washington, D.C. Reason Jail staff in New Orleans test positive; prisoners await the results of their tests. The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate As they prepare for an onslaught of patients, New York corrections officials open up a building recently closed at Rikers Island. New York Daily News Federal prisoner transfers are still taking place, despite BOP pledge to halt them during the pandemic. PA Post ICE detainees say they are on a hunger strike in New Jersey to get soap. ProPublica

The legend of Mr. Grayson. It’s been nearly 42 years since a 13-year-old junior high school student named John Christian walked into a classroom and, in front of his classmates, shot to death their teacher, Wilbur “Rod” Grayson. It took nearly that long for the young witnesses of that attack in Austin, Texas, in May 1978 to get together to discuss what they saw, how it made them feel, and how it affected them as they grew older. “It was a defining moment in my life,” said the victim’s teaching partner at the school. Texas Monthly


A federal judge in Illinois Monday dismissed a civil lawsuit brought by John E. Reid and Associates against Netflix and filmmaker Ava DuVernay over an interrogation scene in the documentary “When They See Us.” Deadline Related: Read the ruling. U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois

Public health officials in Colorado have dispatched six RVs—call them “mobile addiction units”—to help those in rural areas combat the opioid epidemic. Colorado Sun Related: The pandemic means long lines for opioid treatment in Ohio. WBNS

Calls to Oregon’s domestic violence crisis hotline are spiking amid the pandemic. The Oregonian

More bad news for those of you on probation or parole in Nevada: You still have to pay court fees despite the spread of COVID-19. Las Vegas Review-Journal

Prison officials in Pennsylvania say they won’t comply with a court order to take a death row inmate, wrongfully convicted, to an outside hospital for a coronavirus test. Philadelphia Inquirer


Heartbreaking. And predictable. “Shelter in place” rules provide little shelter for women who are victims of domestic violence and abuse. Already the calls are coming in. The New York Times

The self-defeat of low-level arrests today. There is no legitimate public safety value in policing as usual during a pandemic. The Appeal More: San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin would take it a step further: Incarceration principles need an overhaul. Forbes Finally: A bipartisan call to release at-risk people from prisons and jails. Reason

Where is Anthony Kennedy when we need him? Georgia is employing an unconstitutional standard for determining intellectual disability in death penalty cases. American Constitution Society

Big brother in the age of coronavirus. “Government-mandated disease surveillance has a long history in the United States.” Lawfare Related: Here come the conspiracy theories about martial law and the National Guard. The Washington Post


Gun Politics of the Day: The gun industry is lobbying state and federal officials to designate gun stores as “essential businesses” so they can stay open during the pandemic. The Wall Street Journal More: The National Rifle Association slashes pay, staff during pandemic. The Wall Street Journal Related: New Jersey halts gun sales, background checks. The Trace Police in Los Angeles County say they’ll start enforcing closures of gun stores. Los Angeles Times

Report of the Day: The latest pie charts from the Prison Policy Initiative: The U.S. justice system holds almost 2.3 million people in 1,833 state prisons, 110 federal prisons, 1,772 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,134 local jails, 218 immigration detention facilities, and 80 Indian Country jails as well as in military prisons, civil commitment centers, state psychiatric hospitals, and prisons in the U.S. territories.” PPI

Unease of the Day: The Justice Department’s plans to suspend due process protections have alarmed civil libertarians and others. The Washington Post Related: But what about expanded use of home detention for federal prisoners? Lawfare

Sentence of the Day: Jerry Drake Varnell, whose failed plot to blow up a bank in Oklahoma City in 2017 echoed that of bomber Timothy McVeigh, was sentenced Monday to 25 years in prison. The New York Times

Obituary of the Day: Sid Klein spent decades as police chief in Clearwater, Florida. Among other innovations, he was an early proponent of what we now call “community policing.” Tampa Bay Times

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