Media Contact

Communications Director Lynette Kalsnes, lkalsnes@aclu-mn.org612.270.8531

March 18, 2020

The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota Tuesday afternoon released a letter urging officials to take creative and thoughtful action in responding to the Coronavirus crisis to avoid exacerbating long-standing race-based and wealth-based inequalities in our state.

“This crisis has the potential to threaten civil liberties, the rule of law, and the Minnesota and United States Constitutions,” Executive Director John Gordon wrote. “This letter is an urgent plea for measures based on existing law to avoid constitutional injuries, to protect vulnerable populations, and to reduce the COVID-19 exposure of government officials, those in the care of our prisons and jails, and the entire state.”

The letter was emailed to the governor, attorney general, DOC commissioner, state court chief judges, Minnesota County Attorneys Association, Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association and Minnesota Chiefs of Police.

The ACLU of Minnesota’s list of recommendations for the criminal justice system during this public health crisis include:

  • Limiting arrests to only the most serious offenses.
  • Releasing people who are in jail simply because they can’t afford to post bail.
  • Ensuring court scheduling problems do not infringe on people’s rights.
  • Recognizing at-risk people should not be in jail, absent extraordinary circumstances.
  • Instituting furloughs, conditional medical releases, and sentence commutations for people in prisons who are at high risk of contracting COVID-19.
  • Suspending revocations of probation and supervised release that are based on technical violations, and releasing all individuals who are being detained based on pending revocation proceedings.
  • Taking additional measures to avoid court docket backlogs.
  • Providing free phone calls, video calls and email to those in detention.

Learn more about each of these points on the ACLU-MN letter, in the PDF viewer below.

The ACLU of Minnesota is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to protecting and preserving the civil liberties of all Minnesotans through litigation, lobbying and organizing.