Stay-At-Home Enforcement Can Include Jail. ACLU Says Let's Not Go There.

Apr 16, 2020

As shelter-in-place and stay-at-home orders get extended further into the year, some local governments across the Mountain West are threatening jail to enforce those orders. But groups like the American Civil Liberties Union say that's the wrong approach.

During a press conference last month, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said that when it came to sheltering orders, the city would first ask residents for voluntary compliance.

"And then we're gonna enforce as necessary, whenever, and however we have to, to make sure that we comply with this public health order," he said.

That includes steep fines and even jail time. In Wyoming, on the Wind River Reservation, people can also face fines and up to 30 days in jail.

The American Civil Liberties Union, for one, believes putting people behind bars undermines the aims of the public health orders, since jails are "petri dishes" for the virus.

"What local law enforcement should be doing is taking whatever steps they can to reduce the number of people they arrest and put into jail during this public health crisis," Carl Takei, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU, said in a video he posted to Twitter.

Takei said that means issuing citations instead of making arrests, and suspending enforcement on some offenses during the pandemic.

 Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Maggie Mullen, at mmullen5@uwyo.edu.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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