Colorado Supreme Court denies petition for more action to limit COVID-19 in jails

Posted at 10:06 AM, Apr 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-06 15:14:21-04

DENVER — The Colorado Supreme Court has denied a coalition's petitions asking for more action to limit the spread of coronavirus in Colorado jails.

The court denied the suits Friday, the same day they were filed by the Office of the Colorado State Public Defender, the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar and the Office of Alternate Defense Counsel.

The coalition had asked the court to issue a directive that lower courts "are to do their part to safely reduce the number of people" who are incarcerated during the coronavirus crisis," according to a news release from the ACLU of Colorado.

“COVID-19 poses an imminent public health threat to people who are incarcerated, who are disproportionately vulnerable to the virus, where social distancing is impossible, and with facilities that do not have adequate medical care to meet these needs,” State Public Defender Megan Ring said in the news release. “Colorado’s judicial leadership must protect inmates, correctional staff and the public by providing guidance to all Colorado judges to assist in depopulating jails during this pandemic.”

Gov. Jared Polis took executive action last month to help lower the jail population, but the petitions asked the Colorado Supreme Court to "translate this guidance into real action throughout all Colorado courts in every county."

The Colorado Supreme Court did not give a reason for denying the petitions, according to court documents.

18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler in a news release Monday morning called the petitions "politically motivated" and said a directive from the court would have put community safety at risk. Brauchler said local jurisdictions have "taken quick, responsible steps" to address the coronavirus risk of inmates, following Polis' executive action.

Brauchler said average daily population in the Arapahoe County Jail is around 750 inmates, down from 1,100 in the jail before coronavirus prevention efforts. Jail populations in Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties are also down about 25% this month, Brauchler said.