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Is everyone getting out of jail because of COVID-19?

The Supreme Judicial Court or Massachusetts highest court released a new order to regarding people in jail. Does that mean everyone in jail in getting out? (Full SJC order)

The short answer is no, but some will be released.

It all depends on the type of case and the situation the person is in. For detainees being held on non-violent offenses, the court wants those people released unless there is a good reason to keep them in jail. This can include people held on open cases or for violation of probation.

This order excludes individuals being held on 58A or dangerousness. It also doesn't include people charged with violent offenses that the SJC has listed. The order also does not release individuals who are currently serving a sentence even if they are close to end of their sentence. That does not mean that people being held without bail for dangerousness, people being charged with a violent offense, or people currently serving sentences cannot file motions in court requesting to be released. It does mean that it is certainly more difficult and much less likely those individuals will get out.

There are many reasons behind the court's ruling and new order. The jails are a dangerous place with the COVID-19 crisis. The jails are trying to do everything they can from disinfecting areas many times every day, to denying in person visits, to quarantining sick and new arrivals. Even with all those pre-cautions multiple cases of COVID-19 and a few people has died of the virus in jail.

Given the current health crisis, if you know anyone that is being held in jail waiting for this case or if you know anyone currently serving a sentence, it makes sense to file a motion with the court to see if they would be released. Every situation is different and there is no uniformity with decisions. This is especially important if an inmate has a pre-existing health condition that makes them more vulnerable.

List of Excluded offenses 1. Any crime punishable by imprisonment in a State prison that (i) has as an element the use, attempted use or threatened use of physical force or a deadly weapon against the person of another; (ii) is burglary, extortion, arson, or kidnapping; or (iii) involves the use of explosives. See G. L. c. 140, § 21; G. L. c. 276, § 58A. This includes, but is not limited to, the following offenses: murder (G. L. c. 265, § 1); manslaughter (G. L. c. 265, § 13); mayhem (G. L. c. 265, § 14); assault with the intent to murder or maim (G. L. c. 265, § 15); assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon (G. L. c. 265, §§ 15A, 15B, 15C); strangulation (G. L. c. 265, § 15D); assault and battery or attempt by discharge of firearm (G. L. c. 265, §§ 15E, 15F); attempted murder (G. L. c. 265, § 16); armed robbery (G. L. c. 265, § 17); assault with the intent to rob or murder (G. L. c. 265, § 18); armed assault in a dwelling (G. L. c. 265, § 18A); use of a firearm in the commission of a felony (G. L. c. 265, § 18B); home invasion (G. L. c. 265, § 18C); unarmed robbery (G. L. c. 265, § 19); and stealing by confinement (G. L. c. 265, § 21);

2. Any crime involving allegations of domestic violence, including assault or assault and battery on a family member (G. L. c. 265, § 13M); violation of an abuse prevention order 42 under the provisions of G. L. c. 209A, and all violations of harassment prevention orders issued pursuant to G. L. c. 258E;

3. Intimidation of witnesses, jurors, or persons furnishing information in connection with criminal proceedings (G. L. c. 268, § 13B);

4. Any third or subsequent violation of driving while under the influence (G. L. c. 90, § 24) within ten years of the previous conviction for such violation;

5. Motor vehicle homicide or manslaughter while operating a motor vehicle (G. L. c. 90, § 24G, and G. L. c. 265 § 13 1/2); 6. All offenses punishable by a minimum mandatory sentence involving illegal possession of a firearm, machine gun, sawed off shotgun, large capacity weapon, or feeding device (G. L. c. 269, § 10);

7. The following sex offenses: aggravated rape (G. L. c. 277, § 39); rape (G. L. c. 265, § 22); rape of a child under the age of sixteen with force (G. L. c. 265, § 22A); aggravated rape of a child under the age of sixteen with force (G. L. c. 265, § 22B); rape and abuse of a child (G. L. c. 265, § 23); aggravated rape and abuse of a child (G. L. c. 265, § 23A); assault with intent to commit rape (G. L. c. 265, § 24); assault of a child with intent to commit rape (G. L. c. 265, § 24B); kidnapping of a child (G. L. c. 265, § 26); indecent assault and battery on a child under the age of fourteen (G. L. c. 265, 43 § 13B); aggravated indecent assault and battery on a child under the age of fourteen (G. L. c. 265, § 13B 1/2); indecent assault and battery on an intellectually disabled person (G. L. c. 265, § 13F); indecent assault and battery on a person age fourteen or over (G. L. c. 265, § 13H); enticing a child under the age of sixteen for the purposes of committing a crime (G. L. c. 265, § 26C), enticing a child under the age of eighteen via electronic communication to engage in prostitution, human trafficking or commercial sexual activity (G. L. c. 265, § 26D); trafficking of persons for sexual servitude (G. L. c. 265, § 50); a second or subsequent violation of human trafficking for sexual servitude (G. L. c. 265, § 52); enticing away a person for prostitution or sexual intercourse (G. L. c. 272, § 2); drugging persons for sexual intercourse (G. L. c. 272, § 3); inducing a minor into prostitution (G. L. c. 272, § 4A); living off or sharing earnings of a minor prostitute (G. L. c. 272, § 4B); incestuous marriage or intercourse (G. L. c. 272, § 17); posing or exhibiting a child in a state of nudity (G. L. c. 272, § 29A); and unnatural and lascivious acts with a child under sixteen (G. L. c. 272, § 35A);

8. Any violation involving trafficking in cocaine or heroin in excess of 200 grams (G. L. c. 94C, § 32 [b] [4], [c] [4]; or trafficking in fentanyl or carafentanil G. L. c. 94C, § 32 [c 1/2], [c 3/4]); and 44

9. All attempts, conspiracies, or accessories after the fact of the aforementioned offenses.

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