IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT COVID-19

Updated March 22, 2020

***Disclaimer: This website may not contain the most up to date information. The information on this website was compiled by members of A Jailhouse Lawyer’s Manual, of the Columbia Human Rights Law Review. The law prohibits us from providing any legal advice to prisoners. The information on this website is not intended as legal advice or representation nor should you consider it as such. Additionally, your use of information on this website should not be construed as creating an attorney-client relationship with the JLM staff or anyone at Columbia Law School. We have attempted to provide information that is up to date and useful. However, because information related to COVID-19 is changing frequently (often daily or even hourly), we cannot guarantee that this information is current or correct. ***

What is COVID-19?

How are prisons, jails, and immigrant detention facilities responding to COVID-19?

  • Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP):
    • As of March 22, 2020, the BOP is taking the following actions:
      • All social visits are suspended indefinitely (meaning there is currently no end date)
        • Prisoners will be allowed 500 telephone minutes per month, instead of 300.
      • All legal visits are suspended for 30 days.
        • If you need to have an urgent in-person meeting or confidential call with your attorney, your attorney must contact the Executive Assistant of the facility where you are incarcerated, or contact the Consolidated Legal Center for the facility. Your lawyer will need to be examined for possible symptoms of COVID-19 before being allowed to visit you. 
      • All transfers of prisoners are suspended indefinitely. 
        • Exceptions: transfers for “forensic studies, writs, Interstate Agreements on Detainers (IAD), medical or mental health reasons (including local medical trips), and RRC [(Residential Reentry Centers)] placements.”
        • The BOP may need to move or transfer prisoners to take precautionary measures against the spread of the virus.
        • Requirements for any movement/transfer of any prisoner: 
          • The prisoner must have been in BOP custody for more than 14 days;
          • The prisoner must complete an “exit screening for COVID-19 symptoms”
            • If the prisoner has a temperature less than 100.4 degrees fahrenheit, and no COVID-19 symptoms, he will be transferred; 
            • If the prisoner has a temperature higher than 100.4 degrees fahrenheit, OR COVID-19 symptoms, he will NOT be transferred and “will instead be immediately placed in isolation.” 
      • All volunteer visits are suspended for 30 days, though there may be some exceptions.
      • All newly-arriving prisoners will be screened for COVID-19, and may be quarantined for some period of time.
      • For more information on how the BOP is responding to COVID-19, see the BOP’s new COVID-19 resources page.
      • BOP intends to create modified operations nationwide to limit group gathers. This can include staggered meal times, or recreation times.
  • New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (NYS DOCCS):
    • All visits are suspended from March 14, 2020 until April 11, 2020.
      • You will get 5 free stamps each week;
      • You will get 2 free secure messages per week on electronic tablets; and
      • You will get 1 free phone call each week (for non-confidential calls). 
    • Legal visits will continue, but only as “no contact” visits.
      • Your attorney must request a no contact visit. 
  • The New York City Board of Corrections (BOC):
    • The BOC is a nine-person, non-judicial oversight board that regulates, monitors, and inspects the correctional facilities of the City.
    • BOC is calling for Emergency release of at-risk people in New York City prisons
      • As of March 17, 2020 the BOC is calling for New York City to begin releasing people from jail who are at a higher risk of being infected by COVID-19 and is also requesting that the City rapidly decrease it’s prison population.
      • BOC is asking the city to prioritize releasing the following groups of people:
        • People who are over 50;
        • People who have underlying health conditions, including lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, or a weakened immune system.
        • People detained for administrative reasons (including failure to appear and parole violations); and
        • People serving “City Sentences” (sentences of one year or less).
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE):
    • All social (non-legal) visits are suspended indefinitely.
      • Detainees may still call relatives by phone.
    • No-contact legal visits are allowed. 
    • All newly arriving detainees will be screened for COVID-19 and will be quarantined if they show symptoms of the virus.
    • For additional information, see the American Immigration Lawyers Association COVID-19 website.

How are New York criminal and civil courts responding to COVID-19?

  • Manhattan, White Plains, and PoughkeepsieContinuance of Jury Trials:
    • As of March 16, 2020 all civil and criminal jury trials in the Southern District of New York Scheduled to begin before April 27, 2020 will be postponed/delayed. If the Court believes it is necessary, there may be further postponements of these cases.
    • Jury trials that began before March 16, 2020 will continue.
    • Existing Grand Juries will continue.
    • Individual judges may continue to hold hearings, conferences, and bench trials at the discretion of the judge.
    • Any trial-specific deadlines for any civil and criminal case scheduled to begin before April 27, 2020 is at the discretion of the presiding judge.  
    • If a criminal defendant seeks to file a motion for a speedy trial that motion must be directed to the Judge on his case. However, all of these motions will only be granted with the approval of the Chief Judge of the Southern District of New York.
      • Please note that the Court will consider whether the necessity for the trial out ways the potential harm to the public.
    • For the time being, Judges are strongly encouraged to conduct court proceedings by telephone or video conference if that option is available.
    • Criminal matters before Magistrate Judges, such as initial appearances, arraignments, detention hearings, and the issuance of search warrants, shall continue to take place.
  • Southern District of New York (SDNY): March 20, 2020 Protocols
  • Eastern District of New York (EDNY): Restrictions on Visitors : The following individuals are not allowed to enter any courthouse in the Eastern District of New YorkPerson who have been asked to self-quarantine by any doctor, hospital or healthy agency
    • People who have been diagnosed with, or have had contact with, anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
    • Anyone who lives with or has been in close contact with someone who has been to one of the following countries within the past 14 days(China, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Iran)
    • If any of these restrictions apply to you please contact a court Clerk’s office or your attorney.

How are immigration courts responding to COVID-19?

How are immigration courts responding to COVID-19?

How are advocacy organizations who work with incarcerated people responding to COVID-19?