Directly after New Hampshire was placed under a state of emergency on March 13, 2020, we released recommendations that government officials and other decision makers must consider to achieve a fair and effective response to COVID-19. We know that viruses like COVID-19 do not distinguish between economic, immigration, or incarceration status—and so all people must be protected.
Any response to COVID-19 should protect vulnerable people and be grounded in science and public health. With an increasing number of confirmed cases in the state, right now is a crucial planning period to ensure that all Granite Staters have access to testing and treatment. The ACLU of New Hampshire will be watching closely to ensure the State of New Hampshire’s response is no more intrusive on civil liberties than absolutely necessary.
- People in prison or jail should have access to hygiene supplies and complete, timely medical care. The state and counties need to provide these facilities with the needed resources to be able to respond properly and effectively. Additionally, COVID-19 should not be used as an excuse for prolonged, widespread lockdowns in prisons or jails, and any lockdowns or interruption to residents’ activities, such as exercise, visits, or phone calls with families or attorneys, should be scientifically supported and as limited in scope as possible. People in prisons and jails are highly vulnerable to outbreaks of contagious illnesses. They are housed in close quarters and are often in poor health. Without the active engagement of administration, they have little ability to inform themselves about and follow preventive measures. We are following up with jails across the state to ensure these and other civil rights-related processes are happening.
- Regardless of insurance status or financial means, all Granite Staters should have access to testing and treatment. Diseases like COVID-19 do not distinguish between people with comprehensive health insurance policies and those without. We are all at greater risk if people are unable to afford or access testing and treatment.
- Individuals must maintain their constitutional due process rights, including the right to challenge any quarantine. Although voluntary isolation measures are generally more effective than coercive measures, we recognize the use of a mandatory quarantine may be justified if it is scientifically supported, proportional to the risk presented, and is the least restrictive means to protect public health.
- Courts and jail superintendents should take all measures possible to ensure that the jailing of people before trial is a last resort while public voluntary or mandatory quarantining is in place. Arraignments and detention hearings must be a priority even with reduced court capacity. Courts and jail superintendents should do everything necessary to facilitate home confinement and/or daily reporting requirements as alternatives to incarceration where people are highly vulnerable to outbreaks of contagious illnesses.
- New Hampshire elections must be able to continue and all eligible voters must be able to participate without fear to their health and wellbeing. Other states have taken action to protect elections in the face of this pandemic: 33 states and the District of Columbia currently offer “no-excuse” absentee or all mail voting. Of the 17 states that do not already permit all eligible voters to cast their ballots absentee or by mail, a large number have expanded access during the current pandemic. For example, Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New York, and West Virginia all enacted changes to permit all eligible voters to cast ballots absentee or by mail.