Administration

Barr tells prosecutors to consider coronavirus risk when determining bail: report

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Attorney General William Barr reportedly told prosecutors in a Monday memo to consider coronavirus risks with incarceration when determining bail for defendants.

Barr told top federal prosecutors across the country to consider the dangers the defendant could face while being detained, as well as the risks of putting another defendant in prison for the rest of the population, Politico reported

“You should now consider the medical risks associated with individuals being remanded into federal custody during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Barr reportedly wrote. “Even with the extensive precautions we are currently taking, each time a new person is added to a jail, it presents at least some risk to the personnel who operate that facility and to the people incarcerated therein.”

But the attorney general maintained that this flexibility did not apply to those who pose a threat to the general public. 

“Controlling weight should be given to public safety, and under no circumstances should those who present a risk to any person or the community be released,” he said. “COVID-19 presents real risks, but so does allowing violent gang members and child predators to roam free.”

Barr’s memo came three days after he declared an emergency in federal prisons, which allowed officials to permit the early release of convicted prisoners to home confinement sooner than previously required.

The attorney general’s adjustments to the federal justice system come as it faces increasing lawsuits, writs and legal motions regarding the release of individual prisoners and class lawsuits demanding the most vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 be released. 

The Federal Bureau of Prisons has reported that 194 inmates have tested positive with coronavirus, with eight deaths as of Monday. Barr has requested officials prioritize cases for three prison complexes with the biggest outbreaks: Oakdale, La., Elkton, Ohio and Danbury, Conn.

Some states have taken actions to reduce the prison populations by releasing inmates early, but President Trump criticized those who ordered the state and local releases at a press briefing last week.

Tags Bail Coronavirus COVID-19 Department of Justice DOJ Donald Trump Federal Bureau of Prisons federal prisons home confinement inmates Justice Department William Barr

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