Northwestern DA issues protocols for protection of pretrial detainees from COVID-19

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CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP)– Northwestern District Attorney David E. Sullivan has ordered proactive measures to reduce the risk of COVID faced by pretrial detainees held in local correctional facilities. Prosecutors are advocating for release of low-risk, non-violent inmates where appropriate, through the Department of Correction, local Sheriffs, and the Parole Board.  

The Northwestern District Attorney’s Office is reviewing all pending cases in Hampshire and Franklin County in which the defendant is held on bail, in an effort to identify persons whose release would not endanger the lives and safety of the general public or pose a significant flight risk.  Before the COVID-19 pandemic even reached this area, Northwestern prosecutors sought bail only in those few cases where it was deemed necessary to ensure the person’s appearance in court. 

When identifying pretrial detainees who may qualify for a bail reduction, the District Attorney’s Office is prioritizing: (1) defendants whose bail is $5,000.00 cash or less, which covers the vast majority of non-violent crimes and misdemeanors; (2) persons 60 years of age or older, who may be at higher risk of illness; and (3) persons whose health or immune systems are compromised.  Prosecutors have already identified several detainees who meet one or more of these criteria, and have begun discussing their cases with their defense attorneys.  

In addition to conducting this internal review, the District Attorney’s Office is asking defense attorneys to contact the Office with requests to review specific cases, even if they do not necessarily meet the criteria set out above. 

Sullivan’s office is currently not reviewing the detention status of those defendants who the Courts have deemed too dangerous to release pursuant to G.L. c. 276, § 58A, or those defendants whose bail has been revoked based on their commission of a new offense while already out on bail or pretrial release. 

 District Attorney Sullivan looks forward to continuing his Office’s collaboration with all stakeholders in the criminal justice system to strike the right balance between protecting the health, safety and constitutional rights of the accused, with the duty to protect and serve the community at large.  

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