The Committee for Public Counsel Services today announced that it is taking aggressive actions in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19 among its employees and the public, and — with the dangers of the ongoing pandemic in mind — public defenders across the commonwealth will be heading to court next week to ask for the release of its most-vulnerable clients.
In order to provide as much social distancing as possible, the state public defender office is instituting a remote work policy. Starting on Monday, all employees across the state who can work remotely will do so.
All CPCS attorneys who are able to will continue to take cases, but they will not be required to return to their offices.
“As we continue to learn more about the Coronavirus pandemic, our agency will mandate remote working starting Monday in an effort to help flatten the curve of this deadly virus,” said CPCS Chief Counsel Anthony Benedetti. “We will continue to zealously represent our clients across the commonwealth, and we will work with our entire staff to ensure everyone stays safe.”
Starting next week, criminal defense attorneys across the state will be asking judges to release certain clients who are being held on bail prior to trial. Under state law, those accused of crimes who are in custody can seek to be released if they can show there is a change in circumstances.
The outbreak of COVID-19 – and Governor of Massachusetts’ declared a State of Emergency on March 10 — are significant changes in circumstances for many of CPCS’s clients. This virus is particularly dangerous to older people and people with pre-existing medical conditions including, but not limited to, high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, cancer, diabetes, HIV and/or other autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Many of our clients suffer from these ailments.
“As public defenders and citizens, we must take every necessary action to protect vulnerable populations and the community,” said Randy Gioia, deputy chief counsel for CPCS’s public defender division. “This pandemic has changed the circumstances that existed when many of our clients were held. We risk spreading the coronavirus within detention centers across the commonwealth every day vulnerable people are unnecessarily held, and that, in itself, is a public safety issue for all of us.”