For Immediate Release: With the Rise of COVID-19, ArchCity Defenders and Regional Organizations Send Letter to Missouri Officials Outlining Concerns and Recommending Comprehensive Policy Changes

March 13, 2020

With the Rise of COVID-19, ArchCity Defenders and Regional Organizations Send Letter to Missouri Officials Outlining Concerns and Recommending Comprehensive Policy Changes

St. Louis, Mo. — ArchCity Defenders, a holistic legal advocacy organization, in collaboration with several regional organizations, sent a letter to local and state public officials outlining additional challenges Covid-19 raises among populations most at risk of contracting this disease, and recommending comprehensive policies directed towards safeguarding individuals’ well-being within institutions and practices that pose the greatest threats.

The letter outlines concern for vulnerable populations such as the intersectional communities of people who are unhoused, the working poor, immigrants, and individuals with disabilities. Several of the policy recommendations apply to areas within local governments and the criminal legal system, i.e. police and immigration enforcement, courts, and jails, prisons, and juvenile detention facilities.

Examples of suggested policy recommendations include:

– Provide a separate location for the unhoused to convalesce or self-quarantine in individualized spaces with running water and heat during the outbreak
– Provide support so that emergency shelters can remain open 24 hours a day
– Abstain from arresting people for ordinance violations, misdemeanors, and non-violent felonies
– Ensure materials related to COVID-19 are accessible multiple languages
– Immediately suspend the in-person operations of all circuit, associate circuit, and municipal court divisions except for those which are required to address orders of protection, confined individuals, and other exigent circumstances, with periodic reassessment as to whether normal operations can safely resume
– Release from jail of all those who have not been preventatively detained for posing a danger to the community or a flight risk; this includes all those held on cash bail and awaiting probation violation hearings or parole revocation proceedings
– In the absence of facility visits, all phone calls, emails, and other forms of contact with loved ones should be made available to those who are detained at no cost
– Administer COVID-19 testing and, if necessary, treatment to all residents in high-risk areas, such as nursing homes, community care centers, and psychiatric wards

The letter, co-signed by 18 organizations such as the ACLU of Missouri, the Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center, and Action St. Louis, was addressed to Governor Michael L. Parson, St. Louis City Mayor Lyda Krewson, St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page, Board of Alderman President Lewis E. Reed, St. Louis County Council Chairwoman Lisa Clancy, St. Louis City Health Director Dr. Fred Echols, St. Louis County Public Health Acting Director Dr. Spring Schmidt, Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice George W. Draper III, 21st Judicial Circuit Presiding Judge Michael D. Burton, and 22nd Judicial Circuit Presiding Judge Rex M. Burlison.

A copy of the letter can be found COVID-19 Response Letter.

The letter’s signatories include:
ArchCity Defenders
Action St. Louis
St. Louis University Civil Litigation Clinic
Missouri State Public Defender System
Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center
Close the Workhouse Campaign
Coalition Against Police Crimes and Repression
Organization for Black Struggle
Youth Council for Positive Development
Grassroots Accountability Movement
Metropolitan Congregations United
MICA Project
ACLU of Missouri
The Bail Project – St. Louis
Dutchtown South Community Corporation
Deaconess Foundation
Forward Through Ferguson