HARRISBURG - Today, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied an emergency request asking for a reduction in county jail populations filed by the ACLU of Pennsylvania on behalf of the Pennsylvania Prison Society and five people detained in county jails across the commonwealth. The request asked the court to use it’s “King’s Bench” authority to protect public health by ordering county common pleas courts to release some people from county jails, including those who are at high risk of serious illness or death if infected by COVID-19 and those who are held pretrial or on short sentences for minor offenses.
The following statement can be attributed to Witold Walczak, legal director at ACLU of Pennsylvania:
“Though the Pennsylvania state Supreme Court did not grant our request for emergency relief in county jails statewide, today’s ruling is nevertheless a big victory in the fight to keep our jails safe during this public health crisis. The court has ordered every President Judge in the commonwealth to engage with stakeholders in each county to review county jail health and safety procedures and to proactively work to find ways to release certain classes of vulnerable incarcerated people and to limit new entrants to jails. This ruling shows that the court agrees with our underlying premise that action must be taken to reduce jail populations in order to keep them safe. President Judges in every county must take swift action to implement these orders and prevent what will otherwise be inevitable catastrophe.”
You can find the Order Denying Application for Extraordinary Relief and Chief Justice Saylor's concurring opinion on the case page here.