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In Philadelphia, Incarcerated Individuals Kept from Court is Causing Thousands of Backlogged Cases

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KYW Newsradio: Antionette Lee | January 29, 2022

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — It’s an issue that started during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s getting worse.

Backlogged court cases are steadily accruing because defendants are not being brought from jail to court.

It’s causing frustrations for everyone including lawyers, judges, and the defendants who have been waiting months in jail for a preliminary hearing.

Tom Innes, chief of prison advocacy for the Defender Association of Philadelphia, said their goal is to ensure that defendants get their constitutional right to a speedy trial.

He said that hasn’t been the case lately for thousands of people behind bars awaiting court hearings.

"Since December 1, there have been a total of 2,230 people who were not brought down, 2,230 people who did not make it even though there was a court order to bring them to court," said Innes. "They did not come down for one reason, that's because they were on medical hold."

He said if an inmate on a cell block tests positive for COVID-19, the whole unit of up to 100 people is quarantined, regardless of vaccination status or if they’re asymptomatic.

"What that means is that all those people, if you have a date in court today and you're on a quarantine block, you're not coming down," said Innes.

"You're not coming down for anything, for a bail reduction motion, for a preliminary hearing. For a trial, you're just not going today."

Innes said that on just one day alone last week, more than 100 people were canceled from the bring-down list for court. They have clients that have been waiting months for a preliminary hearing. He said that is not only problematic for the defendants.

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