Courts begin prioritizing inmates for release to stop spread of COVID-19

Cherri Gregg
April 06, 2020 - 8:25 pm

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — As more COVID-19 cases are announced each day in Philadelphia, the First Judicial District is expected to implement new protocols for prioritizing expedited inmate releases from city jails. 

Tiffany Luke is worried about her boyfriend, Gerald, who is at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility on State Road. She’s unable to pay his bail.

“I'm worried because in jail, it’s impossible to social-distance,” she said. 

As of Monday, the city reported 54 inmates have COVID-19 — up from 31 on Friday.

“I’m hoping that they just hurry and get as many people home as they can,” she said.

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For weeks, justice advocates have called on the city and the courts to speed up the process for reducing inmate populations in order to slow the spread of the virus.

“We have opened up a few more courtrooms this week, and they are moving more aggressively than they have in the past,” said city Managing Director Brian Abernathy.

Hundreds of petitions have been filed with the courts. This week, the First Judicial District will begin working from new protocols. They’ll review and prioritize cases for defendants who have served their minimum; who are in jail for economic crimes; who are on a maximum bail of $15,000; and who are free of gun, drug, sex or violent charges.

“The petitions are being reviewed and those who can be released will be released,” said Mayor Jim Kenney.

In order to slow the spread, city officials have limited inmate movement, provided masks, and put safety measures in place for staff.