During the Covid-19 crisis, courts all across the country have severely restricted access to the criminal justice system. As a result, an already inefficient and painfully slow process has ground to a near halt and only the most severe cases are heard, and even then, many of those are postponed until social distancing requirements begin to ease.
We have an already backlogged system that is becoming even more pent up, and the pressure continues to build. For example, in California, some courts are wholly closed, and most courts are not set to open until this summer. As states start to reopen, tension is going to crest, and when it does, it will come crashing down on a criminal justice system that will have fewer resources to deal with the tsunami of cases that will follow.
The nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities recently released a study that shows that the collective budget shortfalls of states could reach as high as $500 billion. This second wave has the potential to have far broader impacts than any resurgence of Covid-19.
At the moment, we need to keep our attention focused on the immediate dangers of the now shrinking pandemic. However, we must prepare for the second wave of instability brought on by a system that is overwhelmed with criminal cases without the resources needed to deal with them. Doing nothing can only result in the spilling out of unresolved criminal cases, unsupervised probationers, and untreated offenders into our communities.
Read the full op-ed at Bloomberg Law.
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