Criminal defense lawyer asks public safety community to rethink who goes to jail during pandemic | KOB 4

Criminal defense lawyer asks public safety community to rethink who goes to jail during pandemic

Chris Ramirez
Updated: April 01, 2020 07:11 PM
Created: April 01, 2020 06:46 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.— Lawyers are asking the public safety community to rethink the rules about who goes in and out of jail amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“The things that we know for sure, infections will occur in jails and prison and it will spread rapidly,” said Matt Coyte, former president of the New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.

Coyte said New Mexico’s jails and prisons are extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 outbreaks and that law enforcement and jail officials should reconsider who goes in to protect public health.

“You are going to have infection and it will spread rapidly. You are also going to have staff rates diminish because people on staff will get sick, they will be isolated, so the staffing will get reduced and then likely social disorder,” he said.

Coyte points to the one known case of COVID-19 at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Bernalillo County.

According to public records, the COVID-19 positive inmate was put in jail on a technical probation violation, meaning he’s a low-risk offender by legal standards.

County officials said the inmate exposed the virus to 77 other inmates. Additionally, the jail was forced to put at least four MDC workers in quarantine.

Reporter: The law enforcement community for example might say that if we are releasing the wrong people out of jails and prisons, that could really pose a public safety risk to all of us.

Coyte: Of course, Chris.  That's why we should do it now when we are not panicked, when it hasn't broken out in the facility and we are forced to do it.  Look at other jurisdictions around the world and the U.S. and you will see they have been forced to do it.

Last week, MDC released more than 50 nonviolent criminals that were medically vulnerable to COVID-19.

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