At the ACLU of Alaska, we're listening to health experts, while working to safeguard your civil rights and liberties. The spread of COVID-19 is a crisis, and we understand it will take many of us working together to respond to this pandemic appropriately, effectively, and fairly. We are actively monitoring how the response to COVID-19 may impact your civil liberties, we know the future of our democracy depends on it. 

We're providing guidance to our elected officials on crafting a response that protects the populations most vulnerable to harm, including working people, incarcerated individuals and others interacting with the criminal legal system, homeless, immigrants and those with disabilities. Here you'll stay up to date on the ACLU of Alaska's response to COVID-19, including news updates, guidelines, letters to public officials, as well as hotlines to report civil rights and liberty problems and/or concerns related to coronavirus. 

What we believe

  • Any coronavirus response should be grounded in science and public health, and not be politicized
  • Any response plan must protect the health, safety, and civil liberties of all in the least restrictive way available
  • Public officials should act in alignment with public health guidance
  • State leaders should encourage voluntary compliance with self-isolation measures as much as possible
  • Leaders should pay particular attention to the most vulnerable people in our society
  • Restrictions on liberty must continually be re-evaluated to ensure they remain justified in light of scientific evidence as conditions evolve
  • Individuals should not have due process rights revoked for mandatory medical procedures, isolation or quarantine

Share your concerns

Has the response to COVID-19 impacted your civil rights and liberties? Do you know someone in custody at a jail or prison in Alaska with problems or concerns to safety, health, and civil liberties? Are you concerned about workplace conditions? Share them with us by emailing covid19@acluak.org

For polling access issues or concerns, email voting@acluak.org or call 907-263-2010. 

Using the drop-down list below, you can learn more about your rights during COVID-19. "We the people" means all of us.

1. Abortion access

Q.Abortion access
A.

Government must not use COVID-19 crisis as the guise to prevent individuals from obtaining abortion care. While we must all do our part to protect our communities from the spread of the disease, government actions must be driven by science and public health, not politics.

As the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and other medical groups have recognized, “Abortion is an essential component of comprehensive health care. It is also a time-sensitive service for which a delay of several weeks, or in some cases days, may increase the risks or potentially make it completely inaccessible. The consequences of being unable to obtain an abortion profoundly impact a person’s life, health, and well-being.”

2. Assembly restrictions

Q.Assembly restrictions
A.

The freedom to assemble is one of our most important rights, but government officials can temporarily limit such gathering in circumstances where medical and scientific experts agree that large assemblies of people pose an immediate and grave risk to the public health. Any mandatory measure should be re-evaluated at short intervals to ensure it remains justified and that there are no less restrictive measures available.

3. Court closures

Q.Court closures
A.

The government must prioritize the continuation of essential government services during any time of widespread closures. Complete court closures, which would suspend emergency proceedings and release hearings, should be a last resort and a strictly temporary measure. Courts have an obligation to minimize health risks to the public, including risks to persons charged with criminal offenses and incarcerated. This obligation includes making available provisions for release from custody.  Jury trials should be suspended, consistent with the goal of protecting the public, litigants, court personnel and counsel. 

Officials should consider alternative means for people to access the courts, counsel and government offices, including waiving in-person appearance requirements, allowing for teleconferencing or video conferencing, and permitting online benefits applications or renewals.  They should work to otherwise ensure that people are not penalized by any court or government office closures.

4. Immigrants' rights

Q.Immigrants' rights
A.

Nobody should be afraid to seek medical care for fear of immigration enforcement. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has stated that it does not conduct enforcement operations at medical facilities, except under extraordinary circumstances. In addition, ICE should halt immigration detentions to limit the spread of the virus in jails and detentions centers and to limit the hardships that the virus causes for immigrant communities. 

5. Incarcerated people and the criminal legal system

Q.Incarcerated people and the criminal legal system
A.

People living inside jails and prisons across Alaska are highly vulnerable to outbreaks of contagious illnesses. Governor Dunleavy, Alaska State Troopers, Department of Corrections, local police departments, judges, prosecutors, the parole board, as well as parole and probation agents should reduce the number of people incarcerated to prevent COVID-19 from entering a prison or jail. 

The ACLU of Alaska sent a letter to Governor Dunleavy and Chief Justice Joel Bolger requesting rapid relief for Alaska's overcrowded and understaffed prison system. The letter details proactive measures Alaska should take to ensure the safety of those living and working within our prisons. Read the letter, here. 

We understand it is extremely difficult for incarcerated people to report problems behind bars to those outside. With the restrictions in place for COVID-19, this is only more challenging. For that reason, we're urging families, loved ones, facility staff, and others to report problems they are aware of to us using the covid19@acluak.org channel. The ACLU of Alaska team will use the information shared to effectively advocate for Alaska's incarcerated population, and to identify trends, so we can protect the civil liberties of all.

Note: emailing covid19@acluak.org does not offer or guarantee legal representation or advice. If you're seeking legal assistance, please submit your complaint for review, here.

6. Medical testing

Q.Medical testing
A.

Anyone subject to mandatory medical procedures, isolation, or quarantine has due process rights, including the right to challenge those orders before a neutral decision-maker and the right to legal counsel. These individuals should be informed of these rights. 

7. Voting rights

Q.Voting rights
A.

No one should have to choose between protecting their health and exercising their right to vote. The decisions that government makes that could restrict access to voting in times of public health emergency, however, should never be made lightly, and must always be scientifically justified, guided by the advice of public health experts. While, we appreciate public officials exploring other ways to maintain or expand voting access, the ACLU of Alaska recognizes that some Alaskans cannot vote by mail. These individuals are some of Alaska's most marginalized and disadvantaged residents (people with disabilities, language barriers, and houseless individuals.) Should officials elect to limit in-person polling access, it should be done so only with the concurrence of health experts.

8. ​​​​​​​Working Alaskans

Q.​​​​​​​Working Alaskans
A.

In order to encourage all people to cooperate with health officials and public health guidelines, government and employers must ensure that people are protected from job loss and economic hardship. Government and employers must provide social and economic protection including strong paid family and medical leave policies and income support.