COVID-19 and the Criminal Justice System: How Prisons and Prisoners are Impacted

  (Source)   “The closest thing I can equate it with is…when you’re locked in a cell in a giant, old, deteriorating jailhouse, is the fear that there will be a fire and no one will come in and unlock your cell. What caught my attention about this virus is that it really feels like there’s a fire in this prison.” An inmate at Washington State describes the inevitability of COVID-19 and the powerlessness he feels at remaining incarcerated as the virus rapidly spreads. When prisoners routinely lack access to soap, and when hand sanitizer is considered contraband in prisons, it is easy to imagine the rapid proliferation of the infection. Lack of access to sanitation is only part of the conditions that make prisoners particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. Close quarters, frequently used communal spaces, and lack of adequate medical care are just a few other factors that make prisons and jails petri dishes for the spread of disease. Indeed, these factors have caused a huge spike in the number of COVID-19 cases over the past months. As the number of cases rise in the general United States population, the number of cases in prison skyrockets. Though New York City [read more]

Kids & Teens in Quarantine: Considerations for Navigating Co-Parenting During COVID-19

(Source) On April 9th, the ABA Center on Children and the Law, ABA Commission on Youth at Risk, and ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice hosted a webinar regarding the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on child welfare cases. The webinar primarily focused on the federal Children’s Bureau’s March 27th guidance on how family courts and family law practitioners should proceed during these uncertain times. Now, more than ever, courts and practitioners play an integral role in ensuring the safety and welfare of children in our country. The Children’s Bureau’s guidance was written in part in response to concerns regarding court closures, postponement of hearings, and complications regarding visitation. Across the country, and even in the Q&A sidebar of the webinar, parents have expressed concern that their co-parenting arrangements will be disregarded by ex-spouses amidst the stay-at-home orders coming down left and right. The isolation and social distancing that the COVID-19 pandemic requires may give parents a greater ability to damage the other parents’ parent-child relationship through explicit and implicit behavior, which may ultimately contribute to a child’s estrangement from both parents. Damaging behavior can include denigrating the other parent in front of the child, encouraging the child to take [read more]