District Attorney Offices’ Response to Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Contributing Author: Nelson O. Bunn, Jr., Executive Director, NDAA

The new normal is starting to set in. Quarantines. Social distancing. Events or gatherings of over 10 people discouraged. The spread of COVID-19, known as the novel coronavirus, is impacting the way we operate as a society and we all are having to shift our habits and routines in order to do our part to “flatten the curve”. What does that mean for day to day operations at a prosecutor’s office? How does this impact court systems around the country? What about inmates and their right to be safe and healthy?

Over the last week, NDAA canvassed some of its members from around the country to get a sample of jurisdictional responses to the spread of the coronavirus as the criminal justice system works to ensure the safety of communities while also protecting staff, defendants, inmates and maintaining constitutional obligations they swore to uphold, such as the right to a speedy trial. A few highlights that we found to be consistent across jurisdictions:

· Implementation of required telework policies for prosecutor office and court staff whenever possible

· Enhanced use of technology, such as video conferencing, for court appearances

· Educational campaigns and warnings from prosecutor offices to be aware of price gouging and other scams

· Discontinuing the transportation of inmates to courthouses

· Pretrial release for non-violent offenders in certain circumstances

· Enhanced communication with victims of crime so that they do not feel further isolated

· Sharing of tips and strategies with staff to ensure wellness and healthy habits while working from home

· Constant communication among prosecutors, defense counsel, judges, local law enforcement and other system stakeholders

This is just a sampling of office and court system policies being implemented around the country in response to the spread of the coronavirus.

· A more comprehensive readout of court system and office responses across the country can be found HERE.

If you have any questions about individual state orders, please feel free to reach out to Kiona D. Gaines at kdavis@ndaajustice.org.

If your jurisdiction is looking to develop policies and procedures and you see something in our compilations that could be helpful, reach out to me at nbunn@ndaajustice.org and we would be happy to connect you with another jurisdiction to share experiences and lessons learned to help you protect your communities.

NDAA is a national, non-partisan association with over 5,500 members nationwide. NDAA’s mission is to be the voice of America’s prosecutors in support of their efforts to protect the rights and safety of the people by providing its members with the knowledge, skills and support they need to ensure justice is attained.