The spread of COVID-19, a novel strain of Coronavirus, is unprecedented. The Coronavirus pandemic touches every aspect of life, which means it touches all of our civil rights.
We at the ACLU of New Jersey are monitoring to make sure that government actions reflect public health and scientific evidence – not fear. And we’re monitoring to make sure that our rights – and in particular, the rights of the most vulnerable – remain intact.
Our offices are closed, but we’re hard at work.
COVID-19: Our Response and Resources
We want to know if your civil rights are violated, or if you’re facing discrimination. Email complaints about COVID-19-related incarceration conditions to COVID19@aclu-nj.org – and for all other complaints, fill out our legal intake form. Even if we can’t offer legal help in your particular case, it’s important for us to gather information to identify patterns.
- Criminal Justice: Our officials should do everything in their power to lower the incarcerated population to prevent the spread of COVID-19, from release of low-risk individuals to relaxed enforcement of low-level offenses and alternatives to arrest. Given the disparities in the criminal justice system, this is a matter of racial justice.
- Immigrants’ Rights: Immigrants are particularly vulnerable, especially people in immigration detention. Yet immigrants face heightened risks, with extra pressure to go to work, exposure to fraud, and far fewer opportunities to have access to relief.
- Voting Rights: We’re committed to making sure COVID-19 does not interfere with fair elections.
- Economic Justice: With society at a standstill, the economy stands to suffer – and we know that people with less means will have the most difficulty. We need robust policies for paid leave and sick days and to ensure that all New Jerseyans, regardless of immigration status, are able to access these supports.
During this crisis, we’re especially keeping an eye on the rights of the most vulnerable New Jerseyans – particularly people in detention and prison, workers throughout New Jersey, and families who need support.
- Letter from ACLU-NJ, NYCLU and ACLU of Connecticut urging tri-state area governors to advocate for the release and protection of immigrants detained by ICE.
- Letter from ACLU-NJ and 73 other organizations urging Gov. Murphy and state legislative leaders to include all New Jerseyans in emergency economic relief packages, regardless of immigration status.
- Letters from ACLU-NJ to county wardens, urging for the release of people in county jails and ICE detainees.
- Letter from ACLU-NJ to Governor Murphy, providing recommendations to help curb the spread of coronavirus in New Jersey’s prisons.
- ACLU-NJ agreement for county jails to release low-risk detainees.
- ACLU-NJ and ACLU lawsuit calling for the release of two high-medical-risk people in immigration detention.
For more frequent updates, follow ACLU-NJ on Twitter.
While we’re social distancing, we can still fight for social justice – here are ways you can get involved. We’ll be adding actions throughout the COVID-19 crisis.
Take action: Tell state lawmakers to expand funding to provide legal representation for immigrants in detention facing deportation. In the COVID-19 pandemic, this program is even more urgent to make sure fewer people are detained.
Take action: Sign the petition from our partners at Make the Road New Jersey to release New Jersey’s immigration detainees.
Take action: Sign the national ACLU petition to release vulnerable communities from incarceration.
In every way, the COVID-19 pandemic is a matter of racial justice. Historic inequities – in health care access, discrimination, language barriers, immigration status, restrictions on who can receive emergency aid, accessibility of technology, economic disparities, disproportionate involvement in the criminal justice system, exposure to environmental contaminants, and pretty much every aspect of life in America – have meant that the disease and its effects on society have hit people of color hardest.
One grim marker of these inequities is the racial disparities in COVID-19 fatalities. As of April 7, Black New Jerseyans made up 24 percent of the COVID-19 deaths in the state, despite making up only 13.7 percent of the state’s population.
In the midst of this unprecedented pandemic, as we experience radical changes to the way we live, we must make sure that we do not compound or even worsen the undercurrent of racial injustices that pervade American life.
Across New Jersey, lawmakers and government officials are grappling with an unprecedented crisis. While this public health crisis is new for all of us, the ACLU-NJ is here as a resource to help with civil rights questions in policy decisions. We encourage lawmakers to email COVID19@aclu-nj.org with any specific questions.
- Quarantine orders should be based on public health expertise and scientific evidence, not fear.
- When a crisis hits, the communities who are usually most affected are those who were vulnerable before the crisis. In crafting policies, lawmakers must be careful not to replicate or exacerbate current inequities, and ensure that supports are provided for those most impacted by systemic inequities.
- Prisons, jails, and detention facilities are hotbeds for COVID-19, and we call on government agencies to do all they can to lower the incarcerated population, both through release and relaxed enforcement of low-level offenses. We also need public officials to work with jail and prison administrators to ensure that facilities are following best practices for ensuring the health and safety for everyone who works or is incarcerated in correctional facilities.
- New Jersey has the worst disparities in Black-white incarceration in the country – this statistic is especially important to keep in mind as we address reducing the prison population.