D.C. must protect its inmates from the coronavirus

Daniel Harawa, assistant professor of practice and director of the Appellate Clinic at the School of Law


It is no secret that jails are particularly vulnerable to the spread of the novel coronavirus. Given the peril that people in jail face, public health experts have called for the reduction of jail populations across the country. In a recent op-ed, D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine (D) has said that prosecutors “can and should use their discretionary authority to decrease the number of people in jails and prisons by immediately limiting the number of people prosecuted and unnecessarily detained pre-trial.” In an open statement, Racine recognized his “obligation” “to step up in this time of growing public health concerns to address the needs and rights of individuals in these facilities.”

Racine’s call for action is laudable. However, his words have yet to translate into action. There are more than 1,500 men and women detained in the District’s jail. Many have not been convicted of any crime and are presumed innocent. Others are serving short sentences for minor offenses and are scheduled to be released in the coming weeks and months. Yet these people remain at risk of a death sentence.

Read the full piece in The Washington Post.

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