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Parole and COVID-19: Understanding PA DOC Pandemic Changes

April 21, 2020

Parole and COVID-19: Understanding PA DOC Pandemic Changes

As the nation calls for continued social distancing measures and Pennsylvania continues its stay-at-home orders, many in the criminal justice system are considering the role of the prison system, specifically as it pertains to parole and probation violations. Across the nation, inmates who have been locked up for parole violations have been released from jails as an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the criminal justice system.

With courts and probation offices closed, parole and probation check-ins have been limited to phone calls instead of face-to-face meetings. For those who had only been jailed for technical violations, this is a win as they are given the ability to shelter in place during the COVID-19 outbreaks.

But for some, their safety has not been accounted for, and they still must come in contact with correction officers who deal with high-risk inmates, specifically those with sex-offense convictions, who must still be seen face to face once per month in some states.

In Pennsylvania, to reduce contact, the Department of Corrections (DOC) has implemented its own protocols including:

  • Moving paroled individuals from centers to home plans
  • Maximize parole releases
  • Reviewing parole detainers for individuals in county jails and state prisons
  • Expediting the release process for anyone with a pending home plan
  • Reviewing inmates within the state prison system who are beyond their minimum sentences

But for those who remain behind bars, this is a rather isolating time emotionally, as they have been quarantined from the outside world since March 29. To allow inmates to maintain communication with those, the state has issued additional accommodations for inmates.

Some of the modifications include:

  • Authorized visitors and inmates can participate in a video visitation program
  • All inmates will receive 5 free 15-minute phone calls and 5 free emails per week
  • Each inmate will be permitted (without cost) to mail 12, one-ounce first-class letters per month.
  • Expanded in cell activities
  • Inmates who have flu-like symptoms will not be accepted
  • Medical co-pays have been waived for any inmate with influenza-like illness
  • Inmates have been provided with disposable masks
  • Inmates are being provided with materials to clean their cells daily

While these are all steps in the right direction, it’s important to know that even in the face of a global pandemic, inmates have rights too, and they should be afforded the same respect as those who are not imprisoned. 

Times are very uncertain and unpredictable for all right now. But, you have rights as an inmate in Pennsylvania. If you believe that the terms of your parole or probation are putting you at risk for COVID-19, do not hesitate to contact us.

Contact the criminal defense attorneys of Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano for your COVID-19 parole and probations needs.

Our lawyers are some of the most experienced attorneys in Lackawanna County. We know how to quickly and carefully investigate parole or probation violations and to ensure you are being treated fairly in this evolving criminal justice system. We often find weaknesses with the state’s case, which can result in a favorable decision for our clients.

Find out how we can help you. Contact us and schedule a free case evaluation at Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano. Call (570) 348-0776.

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