The impact of COVID-19 has exacerbated existing inequities in income, wealth, education and housing; has created new threats and forms of discrimination for persons with disabilities; and has created a crisis for those entangled in our criminal legal system. Each day, a new issue emerges or disparity becomes apparent.
Although our physical office is closed, we continue to work aggressively for justice for our clients and equity for all members of our community. Our ongoing work continues and remains vital, but we have also turned to meet the new challenges created by COVID-19.
- Prior to COVID-19, the Committee operated seven walk-in workers’ rights clinics in neighborhoods throughout the city. During the crisis, these clinics have gone virtual and continued, without interruption, to serve approximately two dozen workers each week. For information on our clinics, click here.
- The Committee is engaged in widespread outreach to provide information to low-wage workers about the District’s Unemployment Assistance, Sick Leave, and Family and Medical Leave. We have produced in English and Spanish to give workers basic information and notice of how to get help.
- The Committee, together with a coalition of partners, is advocating with the Mayor, District Council, DCPS and DC PCSB to ensure equitable access to distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- We are supporting parent groups in the Anacostia and Brookland neighborhoods as they work to ensure that low-income children of color have access to educational opportunities during this period of “distance learning.”
- We are working with the 60 law firms and businesses in our school partnership program to devise ways that they can support students in the schools that they serve during this crisis.
- Together with the ACLU of DC and Arnold & Porter, we amended our lawsuit against St. Elizabeths Hospital to challenge their inadequate response to COVID-19. In response, a federal court ordered immediate changes to be made for patients at St. Elizabeths and later expanded the order to include more testing of patients and staff and less movement between units. On May 26th, the Court issued a preliminary injunction to protect the patients, staff, and the community.
- Mail-in ballots are often not accessible to people who are blind or with other disabilities. As mail-in voting becomes more common, we have advocated for expanding accessible absentee voting options in New York and the District for voters with disabilities.
- The Committee joined a coalition urging the District to issue policies ensuring non-discriminatory access to health care during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- We advocated for patients at the St. Elizabeths Hospital and the Psychiatrist Institute of Washington to ensure that necessary infection control practices are in place.
- The Committee hosted a webinar on your Constitutional Rights with law enforcement during stay-at-home orders. We discussed the stay at home orders in the region, what law enforcement can do, and how you can assert your rights.
- The Committee advocated that the Metropolitan Police Department reduce custodial arrests that could result in short-term detentions during the outbreak. We are gratified that the Chief of Police and the Chief Judge of the Superior Court have publicly announced plans to reduce custodial arrests.
- In the wake of reports that stay-at-home orders are being enforced in a racially discriminatory manner, we submitted FOIA requests to all local police jurisdictions seeking information on enforcement policies and practices.
- Working in coalition with other justice advocates we made recommendations to the District for reforms that will protect DC residents impacted by the criminal legal system amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prisons and Jails
- Together with the ACLU, ACLU of North Carolina, and Winston & Strawn, we filed to protect the people incarcerated at Butner Federal Prison whose complex has one of the largest COVID-19 outbreaks in the country.
- Filed suit against Hope Village, Bureau of Prisons, and the District in partnership with ACLU of DC and Latham & Watkins for endangering prisoners at the DC halfway house during the COVID-19 pandemic. This lawsuit resulted in the successful emergency release of prisoners at Hope Village.
- The Committee in partnership with the Legal Aid Justice Center and Wiley Rein LLP has long-standing litigation against Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women’s failure to provide constitutionally adequate health. In response to COVID-19, we have been working to protect the women at FFCW including asking Governor Northam to release and/or pardon certain women.
- Together with the ACLU of Maryland and Arnold & Porter, we filed a petition with the Maryland Court of Appeals to provide extraordinary relief to reduce populations in prisons and jails and take other actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. While the Court denied our writ, it immediately issued an administrative order requiring the Circuit Courts throughout the State to take steps to reduce prison populations in local jails. We continue to advocate for more urgent action in the State’s prisons.
- The Committee dramatically expanded the Compassionate Release Clearinghouse in partnership with FAMM and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers to assist prisoners who are at elevated risk for COVID-19. One can volunteer at https://crclearinghouse.org/training/.
This is just a sample of ways the Committee is fighting COVID-19. We need your support now more than ever to protect our most vulnerable neighbors.
Here is how you can help:
- Help share our advocacy efforts on your social media. You can find us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
- Share our outreach materials regarding the District’s Unemployment Assistance, Sick Leave, and Family and Medical Leave during the COVID-19 crisis in English and Spanish with individuals and organizations that work with low-wage workers. Please let everyone know that we are there to help.
Finally, please give a gift to aid the Committee’s COVID-19 response efforts to protect communities of color and those living in poverty against the harmful impacts this public health crisis will bring.
We appreciate your continued support through this difficult time and hope each and every one of you is staying healthy.
“A Cloistered Culture In The Nation’s Federal Prisons Leads To Infections And Deaths,” Florida Phoenix – 6.3.20
Class Action Wants More Inmates Released From Federal Complex in Butner, North Carolina,” Legal Reader – 5.29.20
“Lawsuit Seeks Release of NC Federal Prisoners with COVID-19 Risk Factors,” Carolina Public Press – 5.27.20
“Judge Requires Coronavirus Precautions to Remain in Place at D.C. Psychiatric Hospital,” Washington Post – 5.26.20
“Inside A Federal Prison With A Deadly COVID-19 Outbreak, Compromised Men Beg For Help,” Huffington Post – 5.26.20
“Inmates File Coronavirus Lawsuit Seeking More Releases from Butner Federal Prison in NC,” The News & Observer – 5.26.20
“‘Inhumane’ DC Hospital Must Step Up Virus Prevention Effort,” Law360 – 5.26.20
“Counsel Who Care: How Attys Are Helping During A Crisis,” Law360 – 5.19.20
“Civil Rights, Law Enforcement Leaders Urge Police to Protect Public Health while Safeguarding Rights,” YubaNet – 5.18.20
“‘Inhumane’ DC Hospital Must Improve Virus Plan, Patients Say,” Law360 – 5.15.20
“DC Hospital Ordered To Increase Testing As Virus Toll Rises,” Law360 – 5.12.20
“We Need Smart Solutions to Mitigate the Coronavirus’s Impact. Here are 34: Use the Power of Reprieve,” Washington Post – 5.7.20
“Here’s What You Need to Know if You’re Stopped by Police During Stay-at-Home Orders,” WUSA – 5.5.20
“D.C.’s Hope Village Halfway House Sees Exodus After Coronavirus Lawsuit,” Washington Post – 4.28.20
“31 Homeless Men from DC Halfway House Bused to Baltimore,” – WUSA9 – 4.27.20
“Maryland Sees Worst Day of COVID-19 Deaths as Region Charts Course for Economic Recovery,” Washington Post – 4.25.20
“Judge Orders DC Psychiatric Hospital to Isolate Patients Following Facility Cases, Deaths,” WTOP – 4.25.20
“Civil Liberty Advocates Caution Use of Project Greenlight During Pandemic Response,” WXYZ Detroit – 4.24.20
Maggie Hart on the Impact of COVID-19 on Students with Disabilities, The Rick Smith Show – 4.23.20
“Advocacy Organizations Call for Compassionate Release of Elderly, Sick Prisoners,” – ABA Journal – 4.21.20
“ACB and Other Disability Advocacy Organizations Bring Voting Rights Complaint before Department of Justice,” PR Newswire – 4.21.20
“ACB and Other Disability Advocacy Organizations Bring Voting Rights Complaint before Department of Justice,” – Inside NoVa – 4.21.20
“America’s Psychiatric Facilities Are ‘Incubators’ for COVID-19,” Mad in America – 4.19.20
“‘Inhumane’ Hospital Accused Of Botching COVID-19 Response,” Law360 – 4.17.20
“After Four Deaths, Patients At D.C.’s Public Psychiatric Hospital Say They Aren’t Being Protected From Coronavirus,” – WAMU 88.5 – 4.16.20
“Inmates Seeking COVID-19 Release Face Uneven Legal Terrain,” Law360 -4.16.20
“‘Do not send these DC residents out of DC!’ | Norton demands Hope Village men be kept close after halfway house closes,” WUSA9 – 4.13.20
“DC’s Only Halfway House for Men to Close at the End of April,” WUSA9 – 4.13.20
“Longtime D.C. Halfway House Won’t Renew Federal Contract,” Washington Post – 4.11.20
“’A Pro Bono Boom’: Doctors, Inmates & Immigrants Get Big Law Help as COVID-19 Spreads,” The American Lawyer – 4.8.20
“Justice delayed: Coronavirus crisis upends courts system across US,” Fox5 DC – 4.8.20
“Virus-Induced Fever Checks Pose Wage Dilemma for Businesses,” Bloomberg Law – 4.7.2020
“Pandemic at the Courthouse Doors,” American Constitution Society Podcast – 4.7.20
“Petition Seeking Inmate Releases Filed With Court of Appeals,” Maryland Matters – 4.7.20
“Lawsuit Filed on Behalf of Inmates at DC Halfway House,” NBC4 Washington – 4.3.20
“Two People Died At D.C.’s Men’s Halfway House Over The Weekend,” WAMU 88.5 – 4.2.20
“Coronavirus-related court actions seek release of D.C. prisoners, psychiatric patients,” Washington Post – 4.2.20
“The Coronavirus Has Spread to the US Marshals’ Detention Empire,” Mother Jones – 4.1.20
“Works in Progress,” WPFW 89.3 – 3.30.20
“Pro Bono Lawyers Face New World of Remote Work Due to Virus,” Bloomberg Law – 3.27.20
“Concerned About COVID-19, Advocates Push Policy That Lets Judges Release Ill Federal Prisoners ,” The National Law Journal – 3.26.20
“Activists Concerned About Inmate Care at DC Halfway House During Pandemic,” NBC4 Washington – 3.26.20
“U.S. Parole Commission Bends to Demands From Defense Attorneys and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton ,” Washington City Paper – 3.26.20
“DC activists raise the alarm about the danger of a COVID-19 outbreak among detained people,” The DC Line – 3.24.20
“Advocates warn of coronavirus threat to inmates,” The Hill – 3.23.20
“To Reduce Lock-Ups, MPD Agrees to Cite More People During Coronavirus Emergency,” Washington City Paper – 3.19.206