Helping Our Incarcerated Clients Survive Covid-19

June 30, 2020

FDAP is closely monitoring the rapidly devolving situation at San Quentin, where nearly a third of the inmate population is now infected with the coronavirus. CDCR reports as of today that 1,091 people have tested positive, an infection rate of 293.1 per 1000. By comparison, California’s infection rate is 4.7 per 1000 . More than 40 percent of San Quentin’s population is considered “medically vulnerable.” Systemwide, CDCR has reported 2,562 active infections, with 22 deaths.

While we are all feeling a growing sense of despair, we do have tools at our disposal.

Public Pressure

FDAP condemns this preventable spread of Covid-19 within the state’s prisons, and is joining organizations and individuals across the state in calling for immediate action, including the release of anyone with less than a year left to serve; granting early release to the most vulnerable; and development of early parole procedures for anyone with less than three years to serve on their sentence. FDAP, as an organization, has signed a petition, and individual attorneys can signing too. It will be submitted to Gov. Gavin Newsom at 9 a.m. tomorrow (Wednesday, July 1, 2020.)

Consider a Writ or Other Motion for Release

For those with clients at San Quentin, we encourage you to check in about their health and living conditions, particularly those within vulnerable groups (i.e. over 60 years old or with underlying health conditions.) Because the spread in San Quentin is rampant, you should reach out to your consulting attorney at FDAP about seeking your client’s release through a petition for writ of habeas corpus or other filing. Samples can be found on FDAP’s pandemic information and resources webpage.

CDCR Community Supervision Program

As of July 1, 2020, CDCR will begin implementing a community supervision program for people with six months or less to serve on their sentences. Those with serious or violent felonies, domestic violence convictions or sex offender registration requirements are not eligible. CDCR has not provided guidance as to how the program will be administered, or how many people will be eligible for release. If you have an eligible client who is not released on community supervision or who is in urgent need of release due to their risk factors for COVID, please consult the FDAP staff attorney for the case about what to do. (We may advise reaching out to someone at CDCR, perhaps the Litigation Coordinator or the inmate’s counselor.)

Staying Informed

The most up-to-date information about conditions inside the prisons can be found on the CDCR website. For updates about ongoing litigation to address COVID-19 within CDCR, visit the Prison Law Office website. For information about self-advocacy, the Prison Advocacy Network has issued a “Routes To Release” resource guide.

If you have any questions about how to help your client, please feel free to reach out to us. In the meantime, we hope you and your loved ones are staying safe.