Press Release: Justice Roundtable Recommendations to Congress: 4th Stimulus Package- Covid-19
The Sentencing Project
Apr 7, 2020


Nkechi Taifa –
Morgan McLeod –

Congress must limit COVID 19 crisis in overwhelmed prisons and jails

Washington DC — Today, the Justice Roundtable released its recommendations to Congress for the 4th Stimulus package on the COVID-19 pandemic as it relates to the country’s prisons and jails. The health and safety of millions of people – including incarcerated individuals, correctional staff, and their families – depend on the federal government quickly taking action to protect them and their communities.

Kara Gotsch, Director of Strategic Initiatives at The Sentencing Project and co-chair of the Justice Roundtable’s Sentencing Reform Working Group asserts that the “COVID-19 pandemic has overwhelmed the functioning of prisons and jails across the country. People behind bars have reported they have limited access to personal protective equipment (PPE), no opportunity to social distance, and little access to soap or cleaning supplies.”

Similarly, Jenny Collier, co-chair of the Roundtable’s Reentry Working Group states, “While Congress included almost $850 million in the third stimulus package to provide PPE, staff overtime, and medical care and supplies for individuals who are incarcerated at the state and local level, more is needed now to ensure that appropriate and safe care, release, and reentry services and support occur in every state and locality where there is a correctional facility.  If this fails to occur, the nation will not control its COVID-19 epidemic as quickly or as effectively as needed, resulting in prolonged illness and increased loss of life.”

The Justice Roundtable updated its COVID-19 recommendations submitted to Congress for the recently passed third stimulus package. Its comprehensive set of recommendations for immediate consideration in the upcoming 4th Stimulus cover the following general areas:

  • Protecting the health and safety of youth and adults who are incarcerated or detained and staff who work at federal, state, local, and tribal prisons, jails, detention centers and secure confinement facilities during the COVID-19 epidemic
  • Preventing the spread of COVID-19 by reducing incarceration levels and overcrowding at youth and adult detention facilities, jails and prisons
  • Ensuring reentry supports to contain and slow the spread of COVID-19

Just as public health experts, corrections officers, advocacy organizations, civil rights leaders, prosecutors, defense attorneys and families had most feared, the COVID-19 pandemic has overwhelmed the functioning of prisons and jails across the country. Many incarcerated people have died, and tens of thousands have been exposed. While some jurisdictions have released hundreds of people from custody, facilities remain overcrowded and dangerous for those inside.

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The Sentencing Project works for a fair and effective U.S. justice system by promoting reforms in sentencing policy, addressing unjust racial disparities and practices, and advocating for alternatives to incarceration.

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