HOUSTON – The ACLU of Texas and a coalition of civil rights leaders sent almost 500 letters last week to criminal justice officials urging them to take public health experts’ advice and release individuals who are at high risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19 from county jails. Specifically, the focus is placed on communities in jails with populations identified by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention as vulnerable, as well as people currently in pretrial detention.
“More than 60,000 people will sleep in jail cells in Texas tonight. Many of them have not been found guilty and are only there because they can’t pay cash bail,” said Sarah Labowitz, policy director for the ACLU of Texas. “Health experts agree that reducing incarcerated populations and protecting vulnerable groups is part of a smart response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re calling on criminal justice officials to do their part to prevent a public health crisis in jails and prisons.”