FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
DETROIT, Mich. – The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan (ACLU) applauds Chief Justice Bridget M. McCormack of the Michigan Supreme Court and Sheriff Matt Saxton of the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association for their joint statement recommending critical steps the courts and law enforcement officials should take to reduce the jail population to curb the spread of COVID-19, adding that these measures “will save lives.”
The recommendations include reducing and suspending jail sentences for people who do not pose a public safety risk, releasing more people on their own recognizance, using jail alternatives such as probation and treatment programs, and limiting arrests to situations where someone poses an immediate threat to their community.
The statement also reminds trial courts that the law requires them “to release defendants on personal or unsecured bonds unless they will not reasonably ensure the appearance of the defendant as required or will present a danger to the public. Money bail of even modest amounts can delay, or outright deny, the release of certain presumptively innocent defendants.”
Dan Korobkin, ACLU of Michigan Legal Director, had the following reaction:
“Today’s recommendations are a welcome and much-needed response to ensure that people are not sitting in crowded jails unnecessarily during this dangerous and highly contagious pandemic. COVID-19 can spread quickly in close quarters, and the consequences can be devastating. While many courts have taken some steps to reduce our jail population since the Supreme Court’s administrative directions two weeks ago, far too many people remain locked up, and highly vulnerable to a potentially disastrous outbreak of disease, even though they will pose no risk to public safety if released. The message from today’s statement from the Chief Justice and Sheriffs’ Association is clear: courts must move boldly and swiftly to protect the health and safety of our community.”