WASHINGTON, September 16, 2020 — Today, the Joseph Rainey Center for Public Policy announced the launch of its Habeas COVID project which seeks to provide direct representation to adults in custody who are medically vulnerable should they contract the COVID-19 virus. Rainey Center Senior Fellow for Technology and Innovation, and criminal justice attorney, Meghan Bishop, is representing men and women in this high-risk category currently in the custody of the Oregon Department of Corrections (DOC). The Habeas COVID project will conduct legal advocacy to obtain early release for these vulnerable populations in compliance with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines.
As with states across the country, Oregon faces an escalating humanitarian crisis in their prison system and correctional facilities continue to remain hotbeds for the spread of this virus due to close quarters and sub-standard medical care available to inmates.
“The Habeas COVID Project is exposing significant disregard of CDC guidelines on the part of Oregon DOC leadership,” Ms. Bishop noted. “Our clients have underlying medical conditions that endanger their lives should they contract the COVID-19 virus. It is immoral to continue to keep vulnerable populations in high-risk conditions, essentially subjecting them to the possibility of a de facto death sentence.”
Throughout the pandemic, prisons have been the sites of some of the biggest outbreak clusters of the COVID-19 virus. The Oregon DOC reported 829 inmates and at least 177 members of staff have tested positive for the virus so far. Six of the positive cases resulted in death two of which occurred as recently as Labor Day weekend.
“The Joseph Rainey Center is honored to be a part of the Habeas COVID Project to enable enhanced advocacy for incarcerated persons at high risk for COVID-19 related complications,” said Sarah E. Hunt, Co-Founder and CEO of the Rainey Center. “The wildfires raging across the Pacific Northwest have exacerbated the crisis and we commend Meghan’s tireless efforts to save the lives of her clients.”
The Habeas COVID Project will also work with the Office of Oregon Governor, Kate Brown, who commuted the sentences of 57 inmates in June of this year. Trials of the Project’s clients are scheduled to begin January 2021.
The Joseph Rainey Center for Public Policy is a post-partisan 501 (c)3 think tank and leadership development community founded on the values of equality, freedom and a more perfect union. Named for Representative Joseph Rainey, a former slave and the first African-American to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Rainey Center was founded in 2018 with the goal of empowering the voices of women, minorities and mavericks in public policy. For more information, visit www.raineycenter.org.