The U.S. Criminal Justice System in the Pandemic Era and Beyond

The U.S. Criminal Justice System in the Pandemic Era and Beyond: Taking Stock of Efforts to Maintain Safety and Justice Through the COVID-19 Pandemic and Prepare for Future Challenges. RAND Corporation. Brian A. Jackson et al. April 8, 2021.

Beginning in spring 2020, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) swept through the United States, infecting millions and killing hundreds of thousands of Americans. In some areas, incarcerated populations were hit hard by the disease. Significant numbers of justice system practitioners, including law enforcement officers, court staff and leaders, corrections staff, and service providers were infected, and deaths from COVID-19 became a primary cause of lives lost in the line of duty. At the same time, national protests in response to the killing of George Floyd and other Black Americans focused attention on equity and fairness in the justice system, resulting in significant pressure for reform.

The conditions faced by organizations across the justice system differed widely, and responses to address the risk of infection varied from place to place. Many of the responses to the pandemic focused on increases in physical distancing and the use of virtual technologies to continue the operations of the justice system while minimizing infection risk.

In an effort to gather lessons learned from the responses of different justice agencies to the pandemic, the Priority Criminal Justice Needs Initiative convened a set of workshops at the end of September 2020 with justice agency representatives and others to take stock of what had been done and look toward the future. A variety of common challenges and innovations were identified in the workshops that assisted in continuing the operation of the system through the pandemic and also might support broader reforms and justice system innovation going forward. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 356 pages].

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