This report presents key findings of a set of workshops convened by the Priority Criminal Justice Needs Initiative at the end of September 2020 to consider lessons learned from the responses of various justice agencies to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A variety of common challenges and innovations were identified in the workshops to assist criminal justice operations through the pandemic and support broader Justice system reforms and innovations going forward. Five key findings emerged from the workshops. One finding notes shifts in the prevalence of crime types during the pandemic that impacted the justice system; for example, increases in domestic violence required shifts in resource priorities and increased demands on victim service providers. A second key finding was that physical infrastructure can constrain responses to infectious disease, such as the need for physical distancing in typically crowded correctional facilities. A third key finding was that a shift to “virtual” communications in criminal justice proceedings and decisions may improve efficiency if maintained after the pandemic, but will require improving internet and technological capabilities in many jurisdictions. A fourth key finding was that interactions and coordination among criminal justice entities and other public agencies that address threats to public health are critical. The fifth key finding of the workshops is the need to protect the health and safety of emergency responders when responding to large-scale disasters. Four recommendations of workshop panelists are outlined for addressing identified challenges. Access is provided to two related products.