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ACLU-WV, along with our partners American Friends Service Committee, the Appalachian Prison Book Project, Mountain State Justice, and WV Free, are calling on the governor to follow the lead of other states and municipalities that are recommending the release of those who are incarcerated simply because they cannot afford bail. None of these people have been convicted and all of them are presumed innocent.

 

Jails are breeding grounds for illness, making incarcerated West Virginians sitting ducks for infection as the COVID19 outbreak continues to spread across the country.

Wealthy people accused of the same crimes are able to purchase their freedom and exercise social distancing, as recommended by health experts, at home as they await trial.

 

The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals released guidance last week that advised judicial officers, in light of the public health crisis, to postpone proceedings that are not “time sensitive.“  If hearings for defendants in criminal matters are put on hold, this could result in delayed release for thousands of incarcerated people. 

No person should ever have to purchase their freedom, especially not during a deadly viral outbreak.

 

TAKE ACTION:

 

Encourage the governor to recommend local judges and prosecutors release all pre-trial detainees. These people are presumed innocent and are only in jail because they cannot afford bail.

Ask your local judges and prosecutors to release all pre-trial detainees.

 

Find your local judges here

Find your local prosecutor here

 

The Governor signed into law Senate Bill 620 on March 5th, authorizing the commissioner of the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation to approve home plans for certain incarcerated individuals. Although the bill is not effective for 90 days, we ask that the Governor make SB 620 effective immediately so that more people can be released sooner, and we ameliorate as much as possible the unsafe conditions for the incarcerated population and DOCR staff posed by COVID-19 pandemic. 

 

Additionally, during this process, it is even more important that staff works with support networks and soon-to-be released inmates to help ensure a safe and stable transition during this public health crisis.  This should in no way limit or prevent people who are eligible for release from being released.

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