The Insight Center is part of a historic advocacy effort to unlock pandemic relief for incarcerated people in state and federal prison desperately in need of economic assistance. At the center of the nationwide effort is a lawsuit, Scholl v. Mnuchin, brought by plaintiffs, persons in the United States denied CARES Act funds solely due to their incarcerated status, against defendants including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, and the United States of America.

In support of the plaintiffs in Scholl, the Insight Center helped research and draft an amicus brief co-authored by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and East Bay Community Law Center. The amici, interested parties in the amicus brief, include Insight and organizations representing or providing services to incarcerated persons and their families in California and across the nation. The brief details the cascading economic harms of incarceration, particularly for Black and Brown people and their families, who bear the brunt of systemic overpolicing, structural racism, and harsh criminal fines and fees. Even as prisons remain among the country’s worst hotspots for coronavirus, incarcerated people must often pay the costs of their own imprisonment, including necessities like soap that are especially invaluable during the pandemic. With no end in sight to COVID-19 and its economic downturn, CARES Act relief funds are critical to support justice-impacted people and their loved ones in navigating reentry, finding work and housing, and making ends meet during the unprecedented fallout.

On September 24, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued an Order granting the plaintiffs in Scholl a preliminary injunction to halt the Trump administration’s denial of CARES Act funds to incarcerated persons. 

“The order is a substantial step in the right direction to make sure that the people most in need of CARES relief can access it, regardless of their race, gender, or incarcerated status,” said Aisa Villarosa, Insight’s Associate Director of Policy and Advocacy.