As the COVID-19 pandemic continues its tragic spread through carceral institutions and the country, Columbia Law School's Center for Institutional and Social Change, UCLA Law School's COVID-19 Behind Bars Data Project, The Bronx Defenders, and Zealous are announcing the official launch of the Health is Justice litigation hub, a new resource specifically intended for lawyers, advocates, journalists, and others who share the interest of challenging, remedying, and drawing attention to the grave risk that COVID-19 poses to people in detention. The litigation hub is a component of Health is Justice, a broader advocacy project that aims to decarcerate and replace punishment with public health.
At launch, the litigation hub provides organized analyses of approximately 400 judicial decisions from federal and state courts regarding COVID-19 and people who are incarcerated. These decisions are from a variety of practice areas, including federal immigration litigation, state criminal cases, federal habeas litigation, federal criminal compassionate release requests, and other fields. Each decision is accompanied by a concise summary.
Through systematic coding, the litigation hub enables users to analyze, search, and sort litigation materials along a range of salient factors, including the health conditions of incarcerated persons, type of detention, legal claims, past criminal charges and convictions, conditions of release, case outcomes, and more. For example, an advocate representing someone seeking compassionate release from federal criminal incarceration who was sentenced as a “career offender” under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines can utilize filters to immediately locate all decisions in the litigation hub that match those criteria. Alternatively, a lawyer advocating for the release of a client with hypertension who is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms in jail could promptly filter and search to find decisions in which courts released similarly situated individuals.
The Health is Justice litigation hub is the product of collaboration not only between the four partner organizations, but also 44 extraordinarily talented law students at Columbia Law School and UCLA Law School who have donated hundreds, if not thousands, of collective pro bono hours. These students were guided and supervised by law professors, staff, and a team of over a dozen lawyers at The Bronx Defenders and Zealous.
We are actively recruiting new law students to join our student team. If you are a CLS student interested in conducting research and/or interviews, analyzing data, doing outreach to advocates, or preparing policy and research memos, while helping to develop a strategy for changing the public narrative about people and communities affected by mass incarceration, we encourage you to fill out our project application form. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.