A Dangerous Limbo: Probation and Parole in the Time of Covid-19
Date:  05-06-2020

The Marshall Project reports on how closed courts, technical violations and faulty technology are keeping people, who are eligible for release, in prison during the COVID-19 pandemic
From The Marshall Project:

Seven months after Tammie Lewis was granted parole, she is still in Marlin Transfer Facility waiting to go home. Officials won’t release her from the Texas state prison until she completes a six-month drunken driving program. But she hasn’t been able to finish the program because, after waitlists and other delays, classes normally taught in person were suspended due to coronavirus, says Lewis’s sister, Temeka Hildreth. Now that classes have resumed, they’re by correspondence. “They’ve got them in their dorm doing packets,” Hildreth said last week.

Lewis is one of more than 15,000 people in Texas who have been granted parole but still can’t go home, according to data published by the state corrections department. While states from Iowa to Arkansas have used the parole process as a way to thin prison populations to fight the spread of COVID-19, “there have been no changes” to the way the Texas parole board makes decisions in light of coronavirus, said Raymond Estrada, a spokesman for the board. As of April 29, 1,050 Texas prisoners have tested positive for COVID-19 and 12 have died. Texas has one of the lowest testing rates in the country, the Austin-American Statesman reports.

Theoretically, people like Lewis who have already been granted parole are prime candidates for COVID-19-related release. And many states and counties have ordered their officers to stop reincarcerating people for breaking probation and parole rules such as missing appointments or failing drug tests. But according to more than a dozen interviews with defense attorneys, probation and parole experts and corrections officials in seven states, bureaucracies that are unwieldy even in normal times are keeping people under supervision in a dangerous limbo: COVID-19 is raging in prisons but their options for release are stymied by measures designed to stop the spread of the virus. Continue reading >>>