As COVID-19 continues to spread within North Dakota communities, the ACLU of North Dakota commends the North Dakota Parole Board for its decision to mitigate the state’s prison population as a response, granting parole to 56 people during a special meeting today. Doing so will help limit overcrowding in North Dakota prisons that could intensify a COVID-19 outbreak.
“Health experts recommend maintaining personal hygiene and avoiding crowded spaces to prevent the spread of COVID-19 — actions that can be hard to do in detention facilities that house hundreds of people,” said Dane DeKrey, advocacy director for the ACLU of North Dakota. “By releasing people who have served their minimum sentence and have been determined to be low risk, the North Dakota Parole Board is taking a significant step in ensuring the health and safety of incarcerated people, medical staff, correctional officers and the community at large.”
Earlier this week, the ACLU of North Dakota issued a letter to Gov. Doug Burgum, the North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the North Dakota Sheriffs & Deputies Association to ask that the entire criminal justice system work together to reduce the state’s jail and prison populations.
In the letter, the ACLU specifically called for the Parole Board to expedite and expand release opportunities for incarcerated people, reducing the population in prisons as recommended by health experts. A copy of that letter can be found below.
By following the recommendations outlined in the ACLU of North Dakota’s letter, state and local officials can create a culture in which transparency, safety and the health of all people is the paramount concern.
About the ACLU of North Dakota
The American Civil Liberties Union of North Dakota is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of civil liberties and civil rights. The ACLU of North Dakota is part of a three-state chapter that also includes South Dakota and Wyoming. The team in North Dakota is supported by staff in those states.
The ACLU believes freedoms of press, speech, assembly, and religion, and the rights to due process, equal protection and privacy, are fundamental to a free people. In addition, the ACLU seeks to advance constitutional protections for groups traditionally denied their rights, including people of color, women, and the LGBTQ communities. The ACLU of North Dakota carries out its work through selective litigation, lobbying at the state and local level, and through public education and awareness of what the Bill of Rights means for the people of North Dakota.