CONCORD, N.H. – In response to New Hampshire being placed under a state of emergency, the ACLU of New Hampshire today released recommendations that government officials and other decisionmakers should consider to achieve a fair and effective response to COVID-19. The recommendations stress the protection of vulnerable populations, including incarcerated people and people without health insurance.
“Any response to COVID-19 should protect vulnerable people and be grounded in science and public health,” said Devon Chaffee, executive director of the ACLU of New Hampshire. “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. We will be watching closely to ensure the State of New Hampshire’s response is no more intrusive on civil liberties than absolutely necessary.”
To limit the transmission of the virus and ensure an equitable approach to combating it, the state’s responses to COVID-19 must ensure that all people, regardless of financial means or incarceration status, have access to testing and treatment, and are able to challenge a detention or quarantine.
- 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 pre-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.