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December 15, 2020

Senior Fellow Meghan Bishop Secures Early Release for Covid At-Risk Incarcerated Persons Through Rainey’s Habeas Covid Project

By Rainey Center

Rainey Center Senior Fellow for Technology and Innovation, and criminal justice attorney, Meghan Bishop,  is providing direct representation to 15 adults in custody who are medically vulnerable should they contract the COVID-19 virus currently in the custody of the Oregon Department of Corrections (DOC). The Habeas COVID project conducts legal advocacy to obtain early release for these vulnerable populations in compliance with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines.

“Covid is running rampant through our prisons and these individuals are at extreme risk of death or long-term complications should they contract the virus,” Bishop observes, “Habeas provides one way incarcerated individuals can be released should a court agree that the prison has been deliberately indifferent to them. All but one of our clients will be released from prison sooner or later. Covid must not be a death sentence for them.”

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.

“Covid is running rampant through our prisons and these individuals are at extreme risk of death or long-term complications should they contract the virus,” Notes Bishop. Habeas provides one way incarcerated individuals can be released should a court agree that the prison has been deliberately indifferent to them. All but one of our clients will be released from prison sooner or later. Covid must not be a death sentence for them.”

Governors have the ability to reduce prison populations immediately. To support work like the Habeas COVID Project, call or write your Governor and ask that they commute sentences for people in prison. You can also demand that people in prison are eligible for the vaccine at the same time as elderly in care homes. All congregate care environments - whether it’s the elderly or people in prisons - are extremely risky for contracting Covid.

The Habeas COVID Project is working 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

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