COVID-19: The Case For Criminal Justice Reform

THE RAPID SPREAD of the novel coronavirus in the United States is expediting criminal justice reforms that advocates have pushed for decades. At least nine prosecutors are now fast-tracking reforms to reduce the number of incarcerated people kept in conditions that can speed the rate of infection, and to stop new prosecutions of low level nonviolent offenses.

For reformers, scholars, and elected officials alike, swift changes from prosecutorial offices across the country raise the question: Why not earlier? And with those changes in place, can things go back to the way they were?

“There is a real question that needs to be asked after this crisis is over about sort of reimagining what our justice system looks like,” said Lauren-Brooke Eisen, director of the Brennan Center’s Justice Program.

“This is gonna be a really important moment for criminal justice reform where a lot of police, prosecutors, corrections agencies say, ‘Let’s not go back,’ — this is our hope, right? Let’s not go back to where we were,” Eisen said.