Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson said in the early days of the pandemic it would be “reasonable” to release “each and every” person in District of Columbia jails, and she went on to grant COVID-related releases to defendants and inmates implicated in serious crimes.
In the early days of the pandemic, Judge Jackson made a passionate appeal on behalf of inmates in Washington, D.C., jails and said pandemic conditions could justify releasing them.
In one instance, Jackson granted pretrial release to a defendant allegedly involved in a deadly fentanyl-trafficking ring, requiring only that he comply with a 10 p.m. curfew. In another case, she released an inmate with multiple bank robbery convictions. Prosecutors opposed both moves.
COVID outbreaks were common in prisons across the country and prompted authorities to reduce jail populations to slow transmission. As of this writing, 292 inmates have died of COVID out of 135,000 in the federal system—less than one quarter of one percent—according to the Bureau of Prisons. Some researchers suggest this move contributed to the late spike in violent crime.