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Cruel Exposure in Unusual Times

Cruel Exposure in Unusual Times

In ordinary times, the conditions on Rikers Island have been unconscionably bad. Now, with the rapid spread of coronavirus, they have become unconstitutionally deadly. Of the more than 1,300 cases that have developed in prisons, 370 come from Rikers alone. And the first inside to die of the disease, Michael Tyson, passed away on April 5th. Rikers Chief Physician, Dr. Ross MacDonald, broke from his practice of silent, anonymous service to bring attention to the fact that the virus spreads…

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Zoom Justice: When Constitutional Rights Collide in Cyberspace

Zoom Justice: When Constitutional Rights Collide in Cyberspace

Criminal courts throughout the United States have relied upon Zoom and other videoconferencing technologies to help maintain a functioning criminal justice system amid the COVID-19 pandemic. However, such technology, in place of in-person trials, potentially violates several constitutional rights afforded to the accused, and might force them to choose to exercise one right guaranteed to them by the Sixth Amendment at the expense of another. Specifically, the accused might now confront two critical constitutional choices: (1) the right to a…

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Prisons in the time of COVID-19

Prisons in the time of COVID-19

The current COVID-19 public health crisis has rendered the nation’s jails and prisons ticking time bombs. In the confined spaces of the carceral system the infection flourishes. At Rikers Island in New York City the rate of infection among the incarcerated population is an estimated seven times that of the free population. The Cook County Jail in Chicago boasts the highest infection rate in the country. Inmates post desperate pleas for help on their cell windows: “Help we matter2.” In…

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