In recent weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the daily lives of just about everybody in America. Kids can no longer go to school, parents are unable to go to work, and seniors cannot interact with their families.
This unprecedented public health crisis has also had a significant impact on the U.S. criminal justice system. From Hillsborough County in Florida to Cuyahoga County in Ohio, jurisdictions throughout the nation are releasing low-level offenders from their jails. Similarly, cities like Philadelphia and San Francisco have stopped arresting and detaining people for crimes such as burglary, vandalism, and prostitution to protect their officers and slow the spread of COVID-19.
So, once a treatment or vaccine for COVID-19 has been developed, and life begins to return to normal, do we go right back to overcrowding the nation's jails and arresting people for low-level crimes? Or do we take this crisis as a chance to reevaluate the priorities of the justice system and develop strategies to tackle crime more effectively?
Miriam Krinsky, the executive director of Fair and Just Prosecution - an organization that is committed to promoting a more equitable justice system - believes that the COVID-19 crisis "is forcing a reset button in the criminal justice system." She also explains that when the pandemic has been resolved, "we may find that we have a new normal."
Ms. Krinsky might just be correct.
As human beings, we are hard-wired to resist change in all its forms. So, if the COVID-19 pandemic continues well into the foreseeable future, and we gradually become accustomed to uncrowded jails and less intrusive policing, are we really going to want to undergo further change so that things can return to "normal?" Or are we going to prefer to stick with our new and improved criminal justice system? If we are lucky, the latter option will win out.
The attorneys here at Shapiro Zwanetz & Lake have been helping the people of Maryland fight back against their criminal charges since 2005. If you should get into any trouble with the law during or after the COVID-19 crisis, please do not hesitate to give us a call at (410) 927-5137. Our experienced legal team is always ready, willing, and able to assist.