Throughout the country, courts, corrections systems, and law enforcement agencies are implementing new policies to limit the spread of coronavirus in jails and prisons, including measures to reduce to number of individuals coming into custody and shrink incarcerated populations.
This page is intended to serve as a resource to compile information from media reports, official announcements, and other sources about actions taken in response to coronavirus that affect incarcerated populations.
March 18 — A circuit judge ordered inmates released from Autauga, Elmore, and Chilton county jails at discretion of sheriffs based on inmates’ potential threat to the community.
March 20 — The Alabama Department of Corrections blocked new transfers from local jails to state prisons for at least 30 days.
March 26 — The Maricopa County Attorney announced that she directed her staff to find ways to “reduce the number of individuals having to interact with the criminal justice system.”
March 16 — The Los Angeles County jail system released 600 inmates, including some who were nearing the end of their sentences. Law enforcement agencies, including the Los Angeles Police Department, moved to reduce the number of arrests by issuing citations for low-level offenses.
March 18 — The Santa Clara County sheriff released jail six inmates who were nearing the end of their sentences to home confinement.
March 19 — The Alameda County sheriff released 314 jail inmates early at the request of a judge, public defender, and district attorney. The sheriff also directed police to prioritize arrests for individuals accused of felonies and issue citations for low-level offenses.
March 19 — Los Angeles County has reduced its jail population by 6% over three weeks as the county speeds up efforts to release inmates, prioritizing early release for individuals with fewer than 30 days left to serve. Police are citing instead of arresting people charged with lower-level offenses, excluding domestic violence. On March 24, the Sheriff’s Department reported 1,700 had been released.
March 24 — The governor issued an executive order barring new commitments to state prisons and youth facilities for at least 30 days. The order also directs the parole board to develop and implement a process for holding parole hearings virtually by April 13.
March 25 — The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office said it had reduced the jail population by about 100 inmates over a week to free up quarantine space. Law enforcement officers are issuing citations rather than making arrests for some misdemeanors.
March 30 — San Francisco reduced its jail population by 25% in March.
March 31 — The Santa Rita Jail, one of the largest in California, reduced its population by about 500 inmates in two weeks. The Alameda County district attorney, public defender, and presiding judge agreed release about 250 inmates after modifying their sentences. The rest of the decrease came from local courts releasing defendants without bail and police departments arresting and booking fewer people.
March 31 — The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation plans to grant early release to 3,500 prisoners who were scheduled to be released over the next 60 days.
March 16 — Police in Denver and Boulder are issuing citations instead of arresting individuals accused of low-level, nonviolent drug and property offenses.
March 21 — The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office announced plans to release some inmates who have served at least half of their sentence.
March 24 — The governor of Colorado issued guidance to law enforcement to increase use of warnings or summonses in lieu of arrest when public safety is not at risk and for jurisdictions to implement pretrial diversion and release methods to lower the number of individuals in custody. Also, Colorado sheriffs issued guidance that law enforcement should summons and release individuals on all offenses where arrest is not mandated by statute, and should notify but release individuals encountered with warrants for low-level misdemeanors and felonies, and that jails should reduce their jail population by weighing the crime, time remaining on sentence, inmate behavior, and risk to the community.
March 19 — The Lake County Sheriff’s Office released 44 pretrial detainees charged with nonviolent offenses. In Hillsborough County, 164 inmates serving sentences for nonviolent offenses were approved for release. The state prison system stopped accepting new inmates until at least March 30.
March 22 — Prosecutors are working to reduce the jail population in Duval, Clay, and Nassau counties through plea deals that avoid jail time, releasing certain pretrial detainees, and not filing charges in nonviolent, “marginal” cases.
March 30 — Jail bookings in Collier County fell by 68% after law enforcement agencies changed protocols to issue summonses for nonviolent crimes instead of making arrests.
March 20 — Cook County has begun releasing inmates who fall into specific categories: nonviolent, elderly, pregnant, or with underlying health issues. On March 24, the Chicago Sun-Times reported judges will begin reviewing cases in response to a public defender’s emergency motion seeking immediate release of some inmates, including those who are older, have health conditions, couldn’t pay their bonds, or are charged with low-level, non-violent felony and misdemeanor crimes. The goal of the effort is to reduce the jail population by 5,600.
March 27 — The governor issued an executive order blocking transfers from county jails to state prisons.
March 23 — Jails in multiple counties have released dozens and possibly hundreds of inmates by shortening sentences, giving credit for time-served, or deferring imposition of sentences until a later date. Police in multiple counties are also issuing summonses for low-level, nonviolent offenses, excluding domestic violence.
March 25 — The state corrections department said it would soon begin releasing 700 inmates already deemed eligible for release by the parole board.
March 17 — Public defenders and prosecutors in Jefferson County agreed on releasing about 110 low-risk pretrial detainees charged with nonviolent offenses.
March 29 — County jails have reduced their inmate populations 28 percent by releasing pretrial detainees and people serving time for misdemeanor sentences. The jails reduced their total population by 3,209 inmates in two weeks.
March 17 — The district attorney and judges in Ascension Parish are working to release nonviolent offenders on a case-by-case basis. The sheriff’s department is issuing summonses for misdemeanors instead of making arrests.
March 31 — District court judges ordered the Orleans Justice Center Parish Prison to release pretrial detainees held on low-level charges. The jail released 144 people over two weeks, resulting in a 14% drop in the population, but another 166 people remained jailed for nonviolent charges, including drugs, burglary, or possession of stolen property.
March 30 — County jails in Maine have reduced their overall population by 20 percent, or about 320 people, over three weeks. Approaches vary by county and have included releasing pretrial detainees or not holding them on bail, granting early release for some inmates, and using summonses instead of arresting and jailing people for low-level offenses. The Department of Correction has started releasing smaller numbers of people from state prisons.
March 18 — The Baltimore State’s Attorney ordered her staff to dismiss pending charges against people arrested for drug possession and attempted distribution, trespassing, prostitution, open container violations, and urinating in public. Prosecutors in Prince George’s County said they plan to release at least 40 people charged with low-level, nonviolent offenses.
March 27 — Prosecutors and the public defender’s office in Prince George’s County worked together to review cases of pretrial detainees, resulting in the release of 62 people in a week.
March 24 — The state’s highest court temporarily banned the use of GPS bracelets for pretrial defendants and probationers because putting one on requires close contact. The order includes exceptions for when a judge finds a “compelling public safety need.”
March 25 — Middlesex County has released more than 40 pretrial detainees. The district attorney is reviewing cases of sentenced inmates, prioritizing factors including nonviolent offenses and health risks, and has asked police to use discretion in making arrests. Franklin and Hampshire county jails have released 25% of pretrial detainees. Suffolk County is reviewing cases. Berkshire County has released one person.
March 26 — Michigan’s chief justice and sheriff’s association issued guidelines for reducing jail populations, including that judges and sheriffs should use their statutory authority reduce and suspend jail sentences for people who do not pose a public safety risk, law enforcement should only arrest people and take them to jail if they pose an immediate threat to people in the community, judges should release far more people on their own recognizance, and judges should use probation and treatment programs as jail alternatives.
March 29 — The governor halted transfers into and out of Department of Corrections facilities and suspended some regulations to make it easier for local officials to release vulnerable jail inmates who don’t pose a risk to public safety. Inmates identified as potentially eligible for early release from jails or local lockups include those who are elderly or chronically ill, pregnant women, people nearing their release date, and anyone incarcerated for a traffic violation, failure to appear, or failure to pay.
March 20 — Montana’s chief justice asked the state’s judges to review jail rosters and release without bond as many people as possible, especially those held for nonviolent offenses.
March 23 — The state Supreme Court has ordered the release of county jail inmates serving time for a probation sentence or a municipal court conviction. The ACLU says the decision could affect 1,000 jail inmates. On March 24, it was reported that the official tally of inmates covered under the release order is 809. Prosecutors are challenging the release of 312 of them; the remaining 497 face no challenges.
March 17 — Prosecutors in Kings County are declining to prosecute low-level offenses that don’t jeopardize public safety. On March 25, the district attorney’s office said it had declined to prosecute more than 90 low-level offenses in the previous week. The office has also reviewed more than 200 requests for release from defenders organizations.
March 21 — The New York City jails released 56 people who were being held pretrial, returned for a parole violation, or considered vulnerable to infection. On March 23, the mayor said he is reviewing a list of 200 inmates in city jails who could be released early, including prisoners with underlying health conditions, elderly people, and those who have served most of their time.
March 20 — The North Dakota Parole Board is attempting to mitigate the state’s prison population by granting parole to 56 people.
March 14 — Judges in Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) are holding special sessions to try to settle cases, release inmates or send them to prison, or release them on house arrest. On March 21, Cuyahoga County jails were down 700 inmates, Hamilton County (Cincinnati) was down about 600, and Franklin County (Columbus) was down 300. The reductions are from releasing nonviolent offenders, issuing citations instead of making arrests, and making plea deals to resolve cases more quickly.
March 25 — The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office said more than 300 inmates have been released since March 16.
March 26 — Butler County has released hundreds of jail inmates to ease crowding. The jail population decreased from 1,033 to 873 in two weeks.
March 31 — Delaware County reduced its jail population to 110 inmates from 220 over a month by expediting cases to release low-level, nonviolent offenders.
March 23 — The Washington County Sheriff’s Office said it has released 121 inmates from a jail population of 574. Sheriffs in Multnomah and Tillamook counties are also working with prosecutors and parole officials to release low-level offenders.
March 17 — The Philadelphia police commissioner said police will delay arrests for people charged with low-level, nonviolent offenses, including drug crimes, theft, vandalism, and prostitution.
March 23 — The Pennsylvania Department of Correction is sending all new inmates and individuals returned on parole violations to one location to minimize the chances of spreading the virus in state prisons.
March 25 — The Mercer County jail released 60 of 308 inmates to free up space for a potential quarantine.
March 16 — The chief justice of the state’s highest court ordered the release of all pretrial detainees charged with a “non-capital” crime, unless they pose an unreasonable danger or extreme flight risk. Anderson County released more than 40 pretrial detainees.
March 19 — The Nashville Metro police chief said officers will use “maximum discretion” in issuing citations in lieu of making misdemeanor arrests, excluding DUI and domestic violence.
March 23 — Davidson County (Nashville) released of 25 inmates. The district attorney and a public defender agreed to pursue early release for 80 people from a list of 264 names compiled by the sheriff who are considered particularly vulnerable to catching and spreading the virus.
March 24 — Local jails in Nashville released 25 people on March 23, and prosecutors and public defenders have agreed to release dozens more.
March 26 — The Tennessee Supreme Court ordered local judges to submit plans for reducing their jail populations by March 30. The order called on judges, law enforcement, and attorneys to work together in planning to release low-risk, individuals incarcerated for nonviolent offenses. The Davidson County district attorney and public defender agreed on the release of dozens of inmates, 25 of whom had been released.
March 27 — Tennessee prisoners who’ve been granted parole aren’t being released because they’ve been unable to complete required programming that’s been suspended or reduced to accommodate social distancing.
March 12 — Police in Bexar County (San Antonio) are suspending arrests for minor offenses.
March 16 — Judges in Travis County (Austin) are releasing more defendants on bond to reduce the jail population.
March 17 — Police in Fort Worth are issuing citations instead of arresting and booking people accused of low-level offenses.
March 18 — The district attorney in Harris County (Dallas) is not prosecuting individuals charged with many low-level, nonviolent misdemeanors.
March 21 — Harris County has reduced its jail population by 6.5%. Officials are identifying inmates who are over 50 and awaiting trial on nonviolent charges to see if they could be eligible for release. The county also released six of 12 pregnant women. On March 26, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office said it had reduced the population in three county jails from 8,500 to 8,000 over a week.
March 29 — The governor of Texas issued an executive order blocking individuals charged with or previously convicted of crimes involving violence or the threat of violence from being released on bond, receiving a commutation, or being placed on community supervision. The order also prevents automatic release on bond if the state is not ready for trial. It does allow judges to consider releasing inmates for health reasons.
March 21 — The district attorney in Salt Lake County said officials planned to release at least 90 inmates, mostly women. All are nonviolent offenders and most were jailed for technical violations or failure to appear. Additional releases could total up to 200.
March 30 — Northern Utah jails are seeing decreases in their populations as police departments issue summonses for low-level, nonviolent offenses and jails release inmates early, either because their sentences are almost up or for good time credit.
March 20 — The commonwealth’s attorney, defense bar, jail, and courts in Prince William County are working to identify nonviolent offenders to release following call from the governor to reduce populations through sentence modifications, summons instead of arrest for misdemeanors, and alternatives to incarceration.
March 12 — The Racine County Sheriff’s Office temporarily stopped accepting new prisoners except for violent felonies and misdemeanors that pose a threat to public safety. Domestic violence offenses are excluded.
March 24 — The U.S. Bureau of Prisons has imposed a 14-day quarantine on all new prisoners coming into the system.
March 26 — A federal judge in New York City has ordered the release of 10 people facing deportation proceedings because their attorneys said they were at higher risk of getting coronavirus because of health problems.
March 26 — Attorney General William Barr issued new guidelines to the Federal Bureau of Prisons to explore releasing some at-risk inmates to home confinement. Out of 146,000 federal prisoners, one third have pre-existing health conditions and 10,000 are over the age of 60. Inmates serving sentences for violent crimes or sex offenses will not be eligible.
March 31 — The Federal Bureau of Prisons announced that beginning April 1, all federal prisoners will be confined to their quarters for at least 14 days. During that time, they will continue to have access to programming, such as educational programs and mental health treatment, “to the extent practicable.”
March 28 — New York University’s Public Safety Lab reports that 277 jails it’s monitoring have reduced their total population by nearly 20 percent since March 1. Some Washington state jails have reduced their populations by nearly half.