Reduce the Overcrowded Jail Population and Stop the Spread of COVID-19

Charles Branson

Public_ealth

In a time of crisis, it is the responsibility of a leader to direct attention to the most at-risk people in our communities. The overcrowded and unhealthy conditions inside Douglas County Jail is a crisis Charles Branson has created, and which is his responsibility to fix. The people of Douglas County have been demanding reforms to our broken system for the past two years, and those reforms are needed now more than ever. We must take immediate measures to reduce the jail population to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Jails are "tinderboxes" for infection because an outbreak can quickly spread within tightly closed areas. People from outside enter and exit these facilities daily (people begin and finish their sentence, staff and guards change shifts, vendors deliver supplies).

Corrections facilities across the country now have cases of staff and incarcerated people testing positive for COVID019; death tolls are rising. Public health officials are calling on elected officials and corrections administrators to reduce incarcerated populations in order to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Other District Attorneys are implementing new policies to reduce jail overcrowding in light of the coronavirus’ risks. Law enforcement in Bexar County, Texas, Philadelphia, Los Angeles County, California, Denver, Colorado and Tulsa, Oklahoma and other departments across the country are reducing arrests and broadening cite-and-release policies to reduce the number of people taken into custody. Corrections systems including those in California, New Jersey, Iowa, and New York are releasing individuals and reducing jail admissions. We should do the same.


We should also ensure that social distancing is practiced to the greatest degree possible, while making sure incarcerated people still have access to those who can not longer visit them. This means waiving all fees for telephone usage, and setting up confidential, private methods of communication between detainees and their attorneys. Inmates should also have ready access to soap, santizier and paper towels, to ensure they can protect themselves from the disease.

We call on Charles Branson  the County Commission, and the Sheriffto immediately do the following:

    • Release all people serving a sentence who are within 6 months of their release date.

    • Prioritize the immediate release of elderly and immunocompromised people.

    • Release anyone who is held pretrial and who does not pose an unreasonable public safety risk.

    • Stop new custodial arrests for any crimes that do not seriously risk public safety

    • Release all juvenile offenders to in-home placements.

    • Release everyone held on probation and parole for technical violations.

    • Ensure that incarcerated individuals can communicate with their attorneys -- including a guarantee of confidentiality and the ability to meaningfully access and review any relevant materials,
  • End any fees for phone calls made outside of the Douglas County Jail.
  • Provide free hygiene products, including anti-bacterial soap, tissues, paper towels and CDC-approved hand sanitizer, inside of the jail.
  • Publicly release information about the process for testing, treating, and preventing the spread of any COVID-19 positive people who either live or work in the jail.
  • Commit that anyone in the jail who tests positive for COVID-19 will receive medical care consistent with best practices, and whenever possible in a hospital to prevent further spreading in the jail.



Petition by
Cooper Overstreet
Lawrence, Kansas

To: Charles Branson
From: [Your Name]

We call on Charles Branson, the County Commission, and the Sheriff to immediately do the following:

Release all people serving a sentence who are within 6 months of their release date.

Prioritize the immediate release of elderly and immunocompromised people.

Release anyone who is held pretrial and who does not pose an unreasonable public safety risk.

Stop new custodial arrests for any crimes that do not seriously risk public safety

Release all juvenile offenders to in-home placements.

Release everyone held on probation and parole for technical violations.

Ensure that incarcerated individuals can communicate with their attorneys -- including a guarantee of confidentiality and the ability to meaningfully access and review any relevant materials.

End any fees for phone calls made outside of the Douglas County Jail.

Provide free hygiene products, including anti-bacterial soap, tissues, paper towels and CDC-approved hand sanitizer, inside of the jail.

Publicly release information about the process for testing, treating, and preventing the spread of any COVID-19 positive people who either live or work in the jail.

Commit that anyone in the jail who tests positive for COVID-19 will receive medical care consistent with best practices, and whenever possible in a hospital to prevent further spreading in the jail.