WASHINGTON D.C. — Rep. Dean introduced legislation mirroring the Senate bill, The Emergency GRACE Act, led by U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai’i) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). The Emergency GRACE Act grants incarcerated people the opportunity to appeal for early release in some instances (if they are terminally ill or elderly). The coronavirus has negatively impacted prisons in Montgomery County and across the country.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to look at crowded spaces, and our prison population must be a part of this conversation,” Rep. Dean said. “The Emergency GRACE Act develops a process for the most vulnerable prisoners to protect themselves during this pandemic."
The Emergency GRACE Act recognizes the high COVID-19 infection rates in prisons and the difficulty of social distancing while incarcerated. Therefore, this legislation aims to diminish community spread within prison facilities, among both inmates and guards alike.
Additionally, The Emergency GRACE Act will:
- Allow an individual to petition the federal court directly during a public health emergency, rather than wait for BOP to act within 30 days (which the GRACE Act created for compassionate release)
- Direct BOP to identify compassionate release cases, and to release relevant medical records to individuals, their lawyers, and the court.
- Create a presumption of a sentence reduction for compassionate release cases.
- Allow the court to provide counsel for individuals without representation.
- Create a process for temporary supervised release, furlough, or transfer.
- Allow an individual to access Medicaid up to 30 days of their release, ensuring that they will be able to sign up for and have access to healthcare coverage post-release.
- Direct BOP to improve their testing of all incarcerated people and staff, limit the spread of the coronavirus, and release relevant information to attorneys and families.
- Provide $50 million for state prison systems through the Byrne-JAG program to increase state prison testing and use of compassionate release or elderly/medical parole.
The Senate companion legislation has been endorsed by the Federal Public and Community Defenders, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, American Bar Association, FAMM, NAACP, International CURE, Center for Law and Social Policy, FreedomWorks, Due Process Institute, and #cut50.
Rep. Madeleine Dean is a mother, grandmother, attorney, professor, former four-term member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, and U.S. Representative for the Fourth District of Pennsylvania.