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Short Update: Fair Trials highlights the impact of COVID-19 on the US criminal justice system at IACHR forum

FairTrialsAdmin - June 29, 2020 - COVID-19 Updates, prison conditions, Court closures, Delayed or accelerated proceedings, Access to a lawyer

On Friday 12 June 2020 Fair Trials participated in the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) Social Forum of the Rapid and Integrated Response Coordination Unit to the pandemic of COVID-19 reporting on the impact of COVID-19 on justice systems in the USA. The submission addresses effects of the pandemic in five areas: places of detention, use of solitary confinement, policing, the functioning of courts and the impact of defense rights. 

In its submission to the IACHR, Fair Trials stresses that the pandemic has increased the disparity of experience between white people and people of color in the U.S. criminal justice system, to the detriment of the latter. Covid-19 has turned jails and prisons, primarily populated by people of color, into viral hotspots where inmates are unable to take precautions and medical care is lacking. Prisons have increased the use of solitary confinement, a recognized torture. The increase in compassionate releases, intended to reduce overcrowding, has disproportionately benefited white inmates.  

Although many police forces have stopped arresting for very minor offenses, the mass arrests of protesters protesting against police brutality have filled holding cells and put protesters in danger of contracting the virus. Police have exacerbated this both by the use of tear gas and by their personal refusals to wear masks. Covid-19 has delayed court proceedings, forcing accused persons to stay in jails longer. Remote court proceedings reduce accountability, disadvantage indigent defendants and can magnify racial bias. 

Read the full report.

We publish information as it is reported to us. If you would like to make us aware of an inaccuracy or send us more information please email us at covid1[email protected]

If you are a journalist interested in this story, please telephone Fair Trials’ press department on +44 (0) 20 7822 2370 or +32 (0) 2 360 04 71.

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