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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.

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Hartford criminal defense lawyer coronavirus COVID-19The United States has quickly become the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the number of cases surpassing even China, the country where the virus originated. As of April 15, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that there were more than 600,000 cases in the U.S., with more than 24,000 related deaths. Because of the ability of the virus to spread so rapidly, states have been doing what they can to curb the spread. Recently, more individuals have become concerned with the prison population and how states are taking measures to protect inmates.

Problems With Prisons and COVID-19

The CDC has issued certain guidelines for people to follow to decrease their risk of contracting COVID-19, also known as coronavirus. These guidelines include social distancing, meaning keeping a distance of at least six feet between yourself and others, wearing cloth masks to reduce the likelihood of the virus spreading, and frequent and thorough hand washing with warm water and soap. In prison, many of these guidelines are impossible to adhere to. Because of this, the number of inmates and correctional workers who have tested positive for the virus is increasing. In Connecticut, there are currently 166 inmates and 104 staff members who have tested positive for the virus.

Connecticut Still Has No Official Plans for Inmate Release

In light of this, the state of Connecticut has still not released an official plan for inmate release. However, some inmates have been released from custody, according to information from Rollin Cook, the Department of Corrections commissioner. Cook stated that the inmate population in Connecticut has dipped below 12,000, the first time it has done so in 25 years. He also stated that the releases have not been mass releases, but releases have been limited to inmates who are elderly or have medical conditions that cause them to be considered high risk.

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