What happens to necessary government functions when a pandemic occurs? Courts and jails have had to adjust normal functions to slow the spread of COVID-19 (also known as the Corona Virus). Where possible, many businesses have required employees to work remotely in the safety of their home to lower virus transmission. This has provided a lot of uncertainty for businesses and functions.
The Judicial Conference on March 29, in accordance to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), will allow chief district judges “to temporarily authorize the use of video or telephone conferencing for certain criminal proceedings” under select circumstances and with the defendant’s consent. Important court proceedings can still occur without a complete halt like it did with the Spanish flu outbreak in 1918. Oral arguments were suspended a century ago but may be allowed today with technological advances. Many courts are currently postponing oral arguments and court dates until it is safe again to resume normal activities.
“If today’s closure is the court’s [second] disease-related shuttering since 1918, it would be the only time the current Supreme Court building has closed to the public due to an epidemic.”
The first was a discovery of anthrax spores in an offsite court mail warehouse.
Jails and prisons
Different jails and prisons are implementing certain policies to help lower transmission rates and protect inmates—especially those with underlying health conditions. These policies can include (but are not implemented everywhere):
- Releasing non-violent and/or “low-level” misdemeanor offenders as well as offenders with low bail.
- Early release of those on “good behavior” and with an original release date anywhere from in April to within the next 4 years (time dependent on state).
- Reducing jail and prison admissions. This is also known as lowering “jail churn” which is the rapid movement of people in and out.
- Reducing or limiting unnecessary face-to-face check-ins/visits. This is uncommon still but has been suggested to promote proper social distancing while supporting people under supervision.
- Suspending all co-pays or suspending co-pays for respiratory/flu-related/COVID symptoms.
- Reducing the cost of phone and video calls or offering a small number of short, free calls.
How we can help
While these changes and policies are occurring during this uncertain period, Rapid Financial is here to make payments simpler and cheaper (saving your court roughly $7.78 per load). CourtFunds allows for cards to be loaded remotely for citizens who still need their restitution payments. This solution keeps court workers safe at home instead of having to go into public spaces to print and mails checks. We still offer 24/7 customer support for you and your payees should you run into trouble or have questions. Our team is here to help you during this unsettling time.