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ICYMI: Advocates Say Urgent Action Needed to Stop COVID-19 Outbreak in Jails

Aug 19, 2020 by AFP

CHARLESTON, WV – This week, Americans for Prosperity-West Virginia (AFP-WV) joined a wide array of policy organization to again urge the West Virginia Department of Corrections to reduce the number of individuals held pre-trial in jail on non-violent offenses in order to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

AFP-WV has been at the forefront of pushing for criminal justice reforms at the state-level and recently joined the coalition to urge Governor Justice and the West Virginia Department of Corrections to increase testing and transparency in correctional facilities as the COVID-19 crisis continues to wreak havoc on correctional facilities. Read what the coalition had to say here.

Below are excerpts from the press release:

With a full blown outbreak of COVID-19 looming in the state’s regional jails, advocates reiterate the call to magistrates, circuit court judges, and prosecutors to use the full force of the new bail law to slow the spread of the virus and protect people’s health and safety.

House Bill 2419, passed by the state legislature during the 2020 regular session, intends to reduce the number of people incarcerated pretrial for low-level misdemeanor and felony charges by requiring a magistrate to hold a hearing within 72 hours if a defendant cannot afford the bail amount or post bond.

However, since the law went into effect in June, the number of people who are incarcerated in regional jails because they cannot afford bail, has not seen any significant reduction.

“As West Virginians, we look out for one another,” says Lida Shepherd with American Friends Service Committee, “and a COVID-19 outbreak anywhere undermines our state’s ability to reduce community spread. A person should not be put at greater risk of exposure to the virus because they are too poor to afford bail. From both a public health and moral perspective, we implore our state’s judges and prosecutors to use every alternative to incarceration.”

 

Coalition members include: American Friends Service Committee, Americans for Prosperity-WV, Jefferson County NAACP, WV Center on Budget and Policy, American Civil Liberties Union-WV, and Appalachian Prison Book Project

Read the entire release here.