The $2.2 trillion rescue package signed into law on Friday provides more than $1 billion to manage criminal-justice needs arising from COVID-19.
The CARES Act allocates money for telework, personal-protective equipment and overtime arising from the pandemic. It also temporarily allows for video and phone conferencing for criminal proceedings.
Emergency appropriations for coronavirus health response and agency operations
- $850 million for assistance for state and local law enforcement
- $100 million in salaries and expenses for the federal prison system
- $50 million in payment to the Legal Services Corporation
- $3 million in salaries and expenses for U.S. Attorneys
- $2 million allocated to “Justice Information Sharing Technology”
The American Bar Association said the money may cover overtime costs, personal-protective equipment, medical costs and improving telework capabilities.
General provisions for the judiciary
- $500,000 in salaries and expenses for the U.S. Supreme Court
- $6 million in salaries and expenses for the Courts of Appeals, District Courts and other judicial services
- $1 million for defender services
- The ABA said the money will be used to improve telework systems and to cover the higher costs of pretrial and probation services in federal courts.
- Temporarily allows judges or justices to use video or phone conferencing for criminal proceedings, including detention hearings, initial appearances, preliminary hearings, waivers of indictment and arraignments.
- Temporarily allows felony pleas and sentencing to be conducted using video or phone conferencing if “the district judge in a particular case finds for specific reasons that the plea or sentencing in that case cannot be further delayed without serious harm to the interests of justice”
General provisions for the Bureau of Prisons
- Provides for personal-protective equipment and coronavirus-test kits
- Allows Director of the Bureau to lengthen the maximum amount of time a prisoner can be placed in home confinement
- Director of the Bureau may allow inmates to conduct visitation through video and phone conferencing, free of charge to inmates, during the emergency period.
In a statement on Friday, ABA president Judy Perry Martinez said the organization was encouraged that the CARES Act includes the provisions for prisons and expands the use of home detention and electronic monitoring.
“The availability of these alternatives to incarceration should be considered particularly for individuals whose cases are still pending,” Martinez said.
The ABA had also called for provisions to increase access to release for older and ill patients, and Martinez said the organization was disappointed the act does not include them.
The CARES Act also allocates billions of dollars to small businesses through loans, grants and tax breaks. Americans will receive $1,200 payments, and many workers affected by the pandemic will receive increased benefits.Follow @WLJReporter