King’s Bench Petition Filed amid COVID-19 Concerns in Pennsylvania County Jails

KRMFL, alongside Arnold & Porter and the ACLU of Pennsylvania, filed today on behalf of the Pennsylvania Prison Society and five detained individuals an emergency request to the state Supreme Court to exercise its “King’s Bench” power in order to curb the spread of COVID-19 among people in county jails. The request asks the Supreme Court to release individuals who are being held pretrial or on short sentence for minor offenses and  individuals who are at high risk of serious illness or death.

This request comes as the United States struggles to contain the spread of the highly infectious virus that has ravaged several cities and continues to strain our public health infrastructure. As of today, the United States leads the world in the number of COVID-19 recorded cases with no sign of slowing down.

The petition highlights that county jails will not be able to follow the CDC-recommended social distancing and hygiene practices that are necessary in combatting COVID-19 unless they reduce their jail populations. Failure to follow these guidelines will result in the spread of COVID-19 to inmates, jail staff, and the surrounding communities.

In the petition, the Supreme Court is also asked to order every Court of Common Pleas President Judge to limit further jail admissions for the most serious offenses.

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