The Clemency Clinic, led by Prof. JaneAnne Murray, Wins Victory for Prisoners Released on Medical Grounds During Pandemic
As reported in the Star Tribune, on Monday this week, Judge Mark Ireland in Ramsey County denied the state Department of Corrections' (DOC) request to return to prison several people previously released on conditional medical release (CMR) because of their vulnerability to COVID-19. In August this year, Professor Murray's clemency clinic, the LAMP clinic at Mitchell-Hamline, and the ACLU of Minnesota, had obtained a temporary restraining order (TRO) preventing the return of 19 released prisoners. Murray's clinic represented seven of these individuals, and in October, the DOC decided to continue medical release for five of them. But two of the clinic's clients, including Tanya Wagner, who had been released because she was pregnant and had since given birth to and bonded with her baby, were slated for reincarceration. The DOC then moved to lift the TRO. Denying the DOC's motion, Judge Ireland wrote that "[f]rom a public interest and public policy perspective, taxpayers should not pay to incarcerate individuals who were deemed by the Commissioner to pose no threat to the public when initially granted CMR and have and are now abiding by their supervised release conditions, not committing any new crimes, and do not otherwise present a more serious risk to the public." Murray was quoted as saying that the clinic's clients are "delighted that they can safely spend the holidays at home with their families." She added, "[w]e hope that the DOC revisits its decision to return them at all. They have thrived on release — working and furthering their education. We cannot see how public safety is served by their return." A hearing on the broader case is scheduled for March.