Sunday, August 2, 2020

Commission to study the impact of COVID-19 on criminal justice system

The Council on Criminal Justice (CCJ) has launched a national commission to assess the impacts of COVID-19 on the criminal justice system, develop strategies to limit outbreaks, and produce a priority agenda of systemic policy changes to better balance public health and public safety.
Led by former U.S. Attorneys General Alberto Gonzales and Loretta Lynch, the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice will:
Evaluate the pandemic’s impact on the four major sectors of the justice system (law enforcement, courts, corrections, and community programs);
Identify the most effective ways to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and the impact of future pandemics on the proper functioning of the justice system, and on the people who work in and are served by it; and
·         Establish a priority agenda of policies and practices that should change, or remain changed, based on what the pandemic and response have revealed about the system’s fairness and effectiveness, particularly for communities of color.
·         At its opening meeting, the Commission was presented with the first in a series of reports presenting new research on COVID-19 and criminal justice. The study, by Richard Rosenfeld and Ernesto Lopez of the University of Missouri-St. Louis, examined crime trends from 27 cities leading up to the pandemic and through June. It found that:
·         Property and drug crime rates fell significantly, coinciding with stay-at-home mandates and business closings. Residential burglary dropped by 20% between February and June 2020. Larceny and drug offenses decreased by 17% and 57%, respectively, between March and June 2020. These declines reflect quarantines (residential burglary), business closings (larceny), and reduced police and street activity (drug offenses).
·         One exception to the drop in property crime was commercial burglary, which spiked by 200% for a single week beginning in late May. The spike is likely associated with the property damage and looting at the start of nationwide protests following the killing of George Floyd.
·         Rates of violent crime showed little change early in the pandemic but began to increase significantly in late May. Homicides (37%) and aggravated assaults (35%) rose significantly in late May and June. The increases could be tied to diminished police legitimacy in the wake of protests after Floyd’s killing.
·         Robbery rose significantly – by 27% — between March and June 2020.
·         Domestic violence also rose, but the increase was not significantly greater than in previous years. In addition, the finding was based on data from only 13 of the cities studied, and thus requires further examination.
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