Washington, D.C. — To contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, states and localities nationwide are issuing lifesaving “stay-at-home” orders that urge residents to practice social distancing. With an estimated 297 million Americans now under stay-at-home orders, the Center for American Progress is launching a new project to track these ordinances around the country and explore how these directives are being enforced.
Many jurisdictions have publicly committed to enforcing these orders in a restrained but serious manner that relies on educating the public and communicating the seriousness of the crisis, even though most are legally authorized to use civil or criminal penalties to ensure compliance. However, some jurisdictions are arresting more people and beginning to misuse stay-at-home orders as a tool for enhancing penalties for other criminal acts, which could worsen the spread of COVID-19 in the jails and prisons.
“Stay-at-home orders are a vital tool to promote and protect public health and, with it, public safety,” said Ed Chung, vice president for Criminal Justice Reform at the Center for American Progress. “We are encouraged to see many jurisdictions and law enforcement agencies commit to first using verbal warnings and other methods short of arrest to convince people to comply with these orders. As this crisis deepens, policymakers must remain committed to using stay-at-home orders to protect and educate the public, turning to the justice system only as a last resort.”
Read the column: “The Enforcement of COVID-19 Stay-at-Home Orders” by Betsy Pearl, Lea Hunter, Kenny Lo, and Ed Chung
Read the accompanying tracker: “Tracking Enforcement Measures for Violation of Stay-at-Home Orders” by Lea Hunter, Betsy Pearl, and Kenny Lo
For more information or to speak to an expert, please contact Claudia Montecinos at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To find the latest CAP resources on the coronavirus, visit our coronavirus resource page.