LAS VEGAS—The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada and several colleague organizations sent a letter to Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak and other state and local leaders outlining specific actions that should be taken to reduce the COVID-19 exposure of government officials, those in the care of our prisons and jails, and the entire state.
Partners organizations that signed onto the letter include the NAACP, Nevada Attorneys for Criminal Justice, the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, Nevada CURE, and the Arriba Las Vegas Workers Center.
The need for decisive actions to protect and care for our incarcerated populations is underscored by Thursday’s news that a staff member at High Desert State Prison tested positive for COVID-19.
People in prisons and jails are highly susceptible to outbreaks of contagious illnesses. COVID-19 has the potential to have catastrophic results if changes beyond increased cleaning measures are not implemented. That’s why we called on the governor and others to exercise their authority and take several steps to protect all Nevadans, including:
- We must limit arrests to only the most serious offenses.
- We must ensure at-risk people are not kept in jail absent extraordinary circumstances.
- People must not be in jail simply because they cannot afford bail.
- Courts must suspend the payment of fines and fees.
- The Department of Corrections must waive the co-pay fee charged to incarcerated people seeking medical care.
- Facilities must give people access to free phone calls, video calls, and e-mail.
- Judges should use their authority to ensure that the criminal justice system does its part in slowing the spread of COVID-19.
- Gov. Sisolak should grant immediate commutations to anyone whose sentence would end in the next year, to anyone currently being held on a technical (crimeless) supervision violation, and to anyone identified by the CDC as particularly vulnerable whose sentence would end in the next two years.