SUMMARY INTRODUCTION of the Motion that was filed 3/25/2020 in the USDC, Eastern and Northern composed of three Judges Pursuant to Section 2284, Title 28 United States Code is stated below: The Prison Law Office (Berkeley) along with Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld (San Francisco), who champion the Brown v. Plata case and Coleman v. Brown cases are filing this EMERGENCY MOTION to release elderly and sick inmate from the overcrowded prison.
California today is under a state of emergency due to the spread of the novel corona-virus and COVID-19, the deadly disease it causes. Like the rest of the country and the world, the State is bracing for the potentially catastrophic ravages of this pandemic. The Governor has taken significant steps to flatten the curve of new cases before hospitals are overwhelmed and the death toll skyrockets, as it has elsewhere. The primary components of the Governor’s actions have been to require social distancing to keep Californians at least six feet apart at all times and to prepare hospitals and health care workers for the coming surge in cases.
Those steps have not been meaningfully implemented in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) for one simple reason: the system is far too crowded. The prisons house tens of thousands of people in crowded dormitories where they live, sleep, and bathe within feet—sometimes inches—of each other. The prisons also house tens of thousands of the people most vulnerable to death or severe complications from COVID-19: the elderly and people with serious underlying medical conditions. These conditions pose an unacceptable risk of harm for people who live and work in CDCR as well as to the broader public: prison walls cannot stop the spread of pandemic disease. According to former CDCR Secretary Scott Kernan, California’s prisons are “a tinderbox of potential infection as you go forward, especially if you are just watching what’s going on around the world.” Another former corrections chief from Colorado sounded a similar warning: “I don’t think people understand the gravity of what’s going to happen if this runs in a prison.… You’re going to see devastation that’s unbelievable.”
It has been only 13 years since California prisons were under another state of emergency: the state had crowded its prison system beyond humane limits, with deadly results. On October 4, 2006, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proclaimed a State of Emergency because “the current severe overcrowding in 29 CDCR prisons has caused substantial risk to the health and safety of … the inmates housed in them ….” Among other significant harms, the Governor found, overcrowded prisons place people living in them at “increased, substantial risk for transmission of infectious illnesses.”
The State has since significantly reduced its prison population overall due to orders from this Court, but not enough to prevent widespread sickness and death during the pandemic. It has taken no steps towards a targeted release of the most vulnerable populations. The Coleman class, people with serious mental illness, is uniquely vulnerable, both to the virus and to the increased isolation and reduced treatment and activities of CDCR’s pandemic response. The current emergency is the inevitable result of the State’s failure to learn the lessons from the emergency of 2006. The deadly promise of the prior overcrowding crisis will be realized today unless this Court acts swiftly to require the State to safely reduce the population in crowded congregate living spaces to a level that will permit social distancing and protect the medically vulnerable by releasing or relocating patients who are at low risk of criminal conduct but especially high risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19.
ISSUE: OVERCROWDING OF MEDICALLY VULNERABLE PEOPLE AND THOSE HOUSED IN CONGREGATE LIVING AREAS CAUSES AN UNACCEPTABLE RISK OF HARM DURING THE GLOBAL COVID-19 PANDEMIC
PROPOSAL: THIS COURT SHOULD ORDER TARGETED RELIEF TO ADDRESS THE UNACCEPTABLE RISK OF HARM TO MEDICALLY VULNERABLE POPULATIONS AND PEOPLE HOUSED IN OVERCROWDED DORMS WHERE SOCIAL DISTANCING IS IMPOSSIBLE
1. A Targeted Population Reduction Order Would Directly Address the Needs of the Medically Vulnerable Population and Those Living in Congregate Settings and Would Therefore Be Tailored to the Changed Circumstances
2. A Prisoner Release Order Would Be Narrowly Drawn, Would Extend No Further than Necessary, and Would Be the Least Intrusive Means to Correct the Current Constitutional Violations
TO VIEW the FULL Motion Click Law Office of Diane Letarte and then see COVID-19 Motion..
A BIG THANK YOU FOR BOTH OF THE LAW OFFICES (above) TO CHAMPION THIS MUCH NEEDED EMERGENCY MOTION DUE TO COVID-19 and the overcrowded Prison where SOCIAL DISTANCING is IMPOSSIBLE.
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