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Legal groups ask Utah Supreme Court to order release of inmates because of COVID-19

Posted at 5:44 PM, Apr 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-01 19:44:10-04

SALT LAKE CITY — A coalition of legal groups are asking the Utah Supreme Court to order the release of more inmates as the state battles COVID-19.

In a petition for extraordinary relief filed with the state's top court on Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, the Disability Law Center and the Utah Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers asked the state "to take immediate steps to significantly reduce the population of their Correctional Facilities and Correctional Centers by releasing— with appropriate considerations for public safety—pretrial detainees, post-conviction detainees with 180 days or fewer to serve on a sentence, and all individuals that are at high-risk for serious complications from contracting COVID-19. This Order would prevent the loss of life and harm that the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic would cause in correctional facilities."

The order would apply to inmates in the Utah State Prison as well as county jails.

The legal groups ask the Utah Supreme Court to order the inmates' release in anticipation of novel coronavirus cases hitting correctional facilities. They are bypassing lower courts because of the pandemic arguing that time is of the essence.

The Utah Attorney General's Office, which defends Utah's Department of Corrections and other state agencies, did not immediately have a comment on the petition late Wednesday.

The Salt Lake County Jail has already begun releasing some inmates in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus.