Can Connecticut Inmates Receive a Discretionary Release Due to COVID-19?

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Hartford, CT criminal defense attorney for discretionary releaseWhile the COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone’s lives in a variety of ways, it has impacted prison inmates disproportionately. For those who are held in correctional facilities, it can be difficult or impossible to follow social distancing recommendations, and inmates may be unable to avoid becoming infected. The risk of infection has caused concern about the ongoing safety of inmates, especially since they often do not have access to adequate medical care. Because of this, the number of discretionary releases being granted by Connecticut state officials has increased, and advocates are calling for more releases, including for people being held in pre-trial detention and those who have been charged with or convicted of low-level offenses.

What Is Discretionary Release?

A discretionary release occurs when an inmate is allowed to leave prison before their sentence has been completed. In many cases, this release will take the form of parole, which will require a person to meet certain conditions before being released, while also requiring them to follow certain rules and restrictions following their release. A parolee will be under the supervision of the Connecticut Board of Pardons and Paroles. Violations of the terms of a person’s parole will result in their being taken into custody by a parole officer, and a hearing will be held to determine whether parole should be modified, extended, or revoked.

Discretionary Release During COVID-19

The state of Connecticut has increased the use of discretionary releases during the COVID-19 pandemic, and as a result, the population of prisoners has decreased by about 25% since March of 2020. However, groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have advocated for the release of more prisoners through pardons or other forms of discretionary release. They have also called on Governor Ned Lamont to use the emergency powers granted to him by the state’s constitution during a public health emergency, which allow the governor to take appropriate measures to protect the health and safety of inmates in state prisons.

While the Connecticut Department of Corrections has allowed for the discretionary release of some prisoners, it may be hesitant to increase the number of releases to avoid a negative impact to public health and safety. When releasing a prisoner, officials consider whether they will have a place to live, will be able to find employment, and can receive the necessary healthcare and mental health services. Unfortunately, even though the overall prison population has declined in 2020, racial disparities among this population have become worse. The percentage of the incarcerated population that is Black and/or Hispanic has risen from 70% to 72% since March of 2020.

Contact Our Hartford Criminal Defense Lawyer

Those who have been convicted of crimes and those who are being held in prison while awaiting a trial on criminal charges are likely concerned about their safety, and they will want to take whatever steps they can to secure a release and avoid the risk of COVID-19 infection. At the Woolf Law Firm, LLC, we can provide representation to criminal defendants, helping them understand their options and working to protect their rights and their safety. To learn more about how we can help with your case, contact our Connecticut criminal defense attorneys today at 860-290-8690 and arrange a free, confidential consultation.

Sources:

https://ctmirror.org/2020/12/23/covid-19-leads-to-more-discretionary-releases-from-prison-but-advocates-say-its-not-enough/

https://www.cga.ct.gov/current/pub/chap_517.htm#sec_28-9

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