The lawyers at Mahany Law and our network partners throughout the United States understand the stress and uncertainty surrounding coronavirus. While the quarantines and states of emergency won’t last forever, our lives have been permanently changed. The legal issues surrounding the pandemic will be debated in courts for years. Our clients need answers today, however.
Today the most dangerous place on earth is Rikers Island. New York City’s primary jail complex has the highest coronavirus infection rate in the world. The correction officer’s union boss calls it “the epicenter of the epicenter”.
Rikers Island isn’t alone. Jails and prisons across the United States have become deadly breeding grounds for coronavirus. The virus is spreading virtually unchecked in many facilities.
While the laws vary from state to state and between state and federal prison systems, inmates have rights. Most jails and prisons were completely unprepared for the coronavirus pandemic and did little to protect inmates. In many instances, those who became infected had not even been convicted of a crime, they were awaiting trial. (In other words, they were guilty of being poor because they couldn’t make bail.)
Across the United States, many facilities became “death rows.”
While we can’t answer all your coronavirus legal questions, we have posted several general information articles specifically related to the current pandemic. As new information becomes available, we will update these posts. Many of the posts will have links to insure you receive current information.
If you know of good quality legal related content by others, share it with us and we will gladly repost.
(A word about the coronavirus cases we accept. Currently we are only considering COVID-19 cases where an inmate who was exposed while in custody died. Each day we get calls from frantic people upset because their loved one isn’t getting masks or PPE. Unfortunately, we are not equipped to handle those cases. These cases are better handled as a civil rights class action. Consider discussing with the local legal aid society or the ACLU.)
Coronavirus Jail Posts
Other COVID-19 Posts
This is our cornerstone post. It begins by examining the COVID-19 pandemic at New York’s Rikers Island. Currently the tiny 413 acre island is the most dangerous place on earth and not because of the inmates housed there. Rikers Island has the highest coronavirus infection rate in the world. The New York City Department of Corrections, like agencies across the United States, was woefully unprepared for the pandemic. As a result, both inmates and officers are dying senseless deaths. Learn what you can do if a loved one dies after becoming infected with coronavirus while in custody.
Several jails and prisons already have confirmed cases of coronavirus. Can prison officials keep the deadly disease from spreading? Inmates don’t have the ability to easily self-quarantine or practice “social distancing.” Halting family visits is a temporary fix that might slow infection rates but do little to stop the disease from racing through a facility, especially since most of our jails are overcrowded and don’t offer the luxuries of face masks and hand sanitizer. If jails can’t stop flu epidemics and MRSA infections, how can they stop the highly infectious coronavirus? [This post is a good read too for corrections officers and jail staff. Although they go home at the end of their shift, they are still in close quarters much of the day.]
New York Rikers Island, the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, and Leavenworth. All facilities where COVID-19 cases have been confirmed and the list grows daily. State and federal corrections officials are woefully prepared. Even in the midst of the pandemic, officials continue to transfer inmates from one facility to another ensuring that the problem will only get worse.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that social distancing helps reduce the spread of coronavirus. That is pretty difficult in most prisons, especially since so many are suffering from overcrowding. We lock up more people per capita than any other civilized, developed nation in the world. (We don’t count North Korea.) At Rikers Island in New York City inmate beds are just two feet apart. If prison officials are serious about reducing the pandemic they should start by furloughing or delaying the sentences of minor non violent offenders.
Like New York, Louisiana has been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Its jails and prisons are no exception. New reports from FCI Oakdale suggest that the federal Bureau of Prisons facility there is in dire straits. With so many officers out because of the pandemic, the officers that remain are forced to work shifts as long as 36 hours. And neither inmates nor officers are getting the PPE they need.
Other Non-Jail Related Coronavirus Posts
Where is the deadliest place in the United States? The answer might surprise you; it is the Life Center of Kirkland (Washington) where 25 have died of coronavirus (as of March 13th). That number doesn’t include the 70 staff members who are also infected. Nursing home residents have the right to high quality medical care. Moving into a nursing home shouldn’t be a death sentence. In this post we discuss what nursing home residents and their families can expect and what rights they have during this health crisis.
In many states, our nursing homes have become “death pits.” (That is not our term.) Our sick and elderly are extremely vulnerable. They can’t protect themselves, especially if they are residing in a nursing home. Like our jails, many nursing homes were horribly prepared for the pandemic. Instead of taking responsibility for their actions they are asking the governor and legislature for immunity – essentially a “get out of jail” card.
Not all of the news surrounding the deadly pandemic is bleak. Oil prices are low meaning lower prices at the pumps. That is good if you need to travel (although many places are closed) but bad if you invested in oil and gas stocks. Many elderly investors and retirees were promised great rates of return by unscrupulous stockbrokers hoping to make a quick commission. These same stockbrokers often failed to tell investors the high volatility and risky nature of these investments. Now many investors on fixed income have seen their nest egg wiped out.
Hotels are closed, airlines are cutting flights, malls are empty, theatres are shuttered, many businesses are sending workers home not for health reasons but because they have no work. This post discusses a number of legal options including business interruption insurance, the legal theory known as force majeure and civil authority claims (claims arising from government ordered closures.)
Coronavirus and CMBS Loans
Student housing, malls and hotels. What do they have in common? Many are empty right now and many were financed by commercial mortgage backed securities. Unlike traditional lenders who often are willing to work with struggling borrowers, CMBS trusts have no employees or even an office. Getting relief is much more challenging but possible. We discuss how to keep the wolves at bay and protect your investment and equity.
Coronavirus and Oil Patch Workers (Unpaid Overtime / Wage Theft)
With the stock market in a slump and millions of Americans suddenly working from home or under quarantine (and therefore not driving), oil prices are the lowest they have been in years. The price war between Russia and the Saudi Arabia is also leading to low energy prices. In Texas, the average gas prices today are under two bucks per gallon. Wonderful if you are a motorist but horrible if you are an oil field or oil service industry worker. Historically, many oil companies when facing a cash crunch try to short their workers. Calling workers independent contractors, “overtime exempt” or salaried are common wage theft ploys. This post examines remedies under the Fair Labor Standards Act available to workers.
Coronavirus Pharmaceutical Scams
This one has us pissed off but not surprised. Already at least two shady companies are trading off the fears of the pandemic and making false claims about their product’s ability to treat coronavirus. Giving people false hope and spreading misinformation about the virus is sick. Unfortunately, others will likely follow. (outside content)
Our commitment to our clients remains steady during these distressing times. As a nation, we will prevail. Unfortunately, there will be suffering. We are here for you and ready to help you in any way possible. While we limit our practice to a few areas of law, please feel free to write to us at [hidden email] if you have helpful information you think we should pass along. Even if from a competitor, we are willing to use our web power to pass along helpful and timely coronavirus legal information