Amid concerns about the health of staff and vulnerable inmates, Democrats have been making a push for jails and prisons to release certain non-violent offenders to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
According to The Hill, the U.S. Supreme Court has stepped in and just ruled against the Trump administration.
The Trump administration previously requested to block a lower court’s order allowing a federal prison in Ohio to grant such early releases.
Three conservative justices — Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., and Neil Gorsuch — said they would have granted the administration’s request for a stay.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was appointed by Trump last year, seemed to side with Democrats that the administration could refile its request at a later date for another consideration.
The case stemmed from a COVID-19 outbreak at Elkton Federal Correctional Institution, a low-security federal prison in Ohio that houses as many as 2,500 inmates.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing four of the inmates in this lawsuit, cited federal prison officials who say at least nine inmates have died of the pandemic virus. At least seven staff members and 162 inmates in total have tested positive for the infection.
Attorneys argued that social distancing measures recommended stopping the virus’s spread were ineffective, if not impossible, with as many as 150 inmates housed together in the prison’s dormitory-style barracks.
Last month, U.S. District Judge James Gwin ruled that the Bureau of Prisons must conduct a review of the facility’s population and identify any inmates who were either elderly or medically vulnerable and would be eligible for an early release or a transfer to home confinement to continue serving their sentences.
In response, the Trump administration sought a ruling from the Supreme Court that would block the implementation of that earlier order, arguing that “extraordinarily significant questions” needed to be answered following a more thorough review.
Nevertheless, there are many Americans concerned about the possible repercussions of releasing an untold number of convicted criminals onto the streets.
Beyond that, the High Court has already handed down several major immigration rulings this month.
Last week, the Supreme Court issued an 8-1 decision in favor of Obamacare, ruling that the federal government must pay out $12 billion to insurers who had enrolled in the Affordable Care Act’s “risk corridor” program.
Before that, the SCOTUS delivered a 5-4 ruling permitting a “public charge” rule that allows the Trump administration to screen out green card applicants. The rule makes it more difficult for immigrants to receive legal status should they be expected to become dependent on government benefits.
The Supreme Court ruled last week that defendants in criminal trials can only be convicted by a unanimous jury, striking down a previous law that has been rejected by every state except one.
The SCOTUS recently ruled that the Trump administration can enforce the “remain in Mexico” policy.
Before that, the High Court ruled 5-4 in favor of tossing a lawsuit filed against a Texas border agent for shooting and killing a Mexican teenager.