Lowenstein Clinic, Advanced Sentencing Clinic File Suit Seeking CT Prison Reduction

The Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Law Clinic and the Advanced Sentencing Clinic filed a lawsuit on Friday, April 3, 2020, in conjunction with the ACLU of Connecticut, seeking an immediate reduction of the prison population in Connecticut Department of Corrections (DOC) prisons due to the disastrous impact the spread of COVID-19 may have on these facilities.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is already beginning to take root in Connecticut’s prisons and jails, and DOC’s failure to adequately respond is not only unconstitutional and in contravention of international human rights law; it is grossly inhumane. The most vulnerable members of our community must not be left to suffer and die,” said Kamilyn Choi ’21, a member of the Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic.

The lawsuit, filed along with a motion for a temporary restraining order in Connecticut Superior Court, also seeks immediate release of individuals at risk of serious illness or death resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, among others.

“COVID-19 will spread like wildfire through prisons, where the population has no way to practice social distancing and has limited access to medical care,” said Eli Feasley ’21, a member of the Advanced Sentencing Clinic. “The DOC must join other states in releasing a substantial number of people immediately to save the lives they still can.”

The suit was filed on behalf of the Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (CCDLA) and four men who are currently incarcerated. One of the men has an autoimmune condition, another is over the age of 60, one is scheduled for release next month, and one who is being held for want of a $5,000 bond and has only one lung. The Connecticut Superior Court will hear argument on the case on April 8, 2020. The Peter Gruber Rule of Law Clinic also contributed to the filing.

The Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School gives students firsthand experience in human rights advocacy. The clinic undertakes a wide variety of projects each term on behalf of human rights organizations and individual victims of human rights abuse.

The Advanced Sentencing Clinic handles matters including state parole reform projects and federal supervised release revocation hearings. Students handle all aspects of their cases and projects, including building relationships with clients and agencies; interviewing witnesses; investigating case facts; drafting pleadings and policy memos; and arguing on behalf of clients in court.