COVID-19, a global pandemic, has taken an unprepared United States by storm. Of particular concern are areas of dense populations, such as the prisons and jail populations, as the spread of COVID-19 is rampant within close quarters. People serving time in prisons, or waiting in jails cannot properly social distance, supplies such as face masks took time to arrive at prisons, and testing of inmates is still not being done widely. Stemming from the lack of space and supplies creates the question of what new approaches might be needed to curb the outbreaks and transmission of COVID-19. Some new approaches may be taken at the courthouse level. Judicial branches work at the intersection of justice, the preservation of constitutional rights and public safety. COVID-19 has added an intersection with public health, as the judicial branches must now navigate how to conduct law as safely and fairly as possible during this pandemic.
I contacted people working towards justice in Durham, and North Carolina (NC) to see how COVID-19 has changed their daily jobs and if there have been specific policies guiding these changes they are experiencing. I reached out to 10 officials via email and was able to schedule phone meetings with 6. The phone conversations were from 10-35 minutes, and some participants provided additional resources via email. I was not given permission to use their names in this paper, however job titles were approved. The job titles of the people I spoke to included an assistant attorney, a trial court administrator, a DAs assistant and a DA, a clerk of court, and a judge. In this paper I will first provide a chronology of formal guidance for the judicial system related to the pandemic followed by the key themes identified from the conversations, which included: returning to the courthouse during a pandemic, preparing the courthouse to meet COVID-19 Guidelines, navigation of jury trials during a pandemic, virtual trails and post-COVID-19 predictions.
See what they said here: COVID-19 and the Justice system_paigeoleary