The spread of COVID-19 is a crisis, and it will take many of us working together to respond appropriately, effectively, and fairly. The ACLU of Massachusetts will be monitoring the situation to ensure a response that is ​scientifically justified and no more intrusive upon civil liberties than absolutely necessary and protects the populations most vulnerable to harm, including working people, immigrants, and those involved in the criminal legal system.

The ACLU understands that emergencies require extraordinary measures if the efforts lean first and foremost on public education and voluntary compliance and are justified by public health data and best practices. Accordingly, any enforcement should be to facilitate long-term voluntary compliance rather than to punish non-compliance. To that end, municipal officials should address violations of physical distancing rules—especially first-time violations—by explaining the rules and providing members of the community with accurate information about the health risks of violating them. Officials should stop short of issuing citations for non-compliance; saddling people with fines will only exacerbate existing inequities and make it even harder for people to recover after the pandemic subsides. 

Here you will find information about the ACLU’s response to COVID-19, including news updates, blog posts, guidelines, and letters to public officials—as well as other resources. Above all, the ACLU of Massachusetts believes:

  • 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
  • State leaders should encourage voluntary compliance with self-isolation measures as much as possible
  • If leaders want to be effective in limiting the transmission of coronavirus, they will need to pay particular attention to the most vulnerable people in our society

Incarcerated people

People in jail are highly vulnerable to outbreaks of contagious illnesses. State and local law enforcement including the attorney general, district attorneys, and local police should reduce the number of people in state custody in order to prevent the virus from entering a prison or jail.


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.

The economically insecure 

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.

We will update this page as the situation develops. See below for more resources.

Litigation and Advocacy

A.Litigation and Advocacy


June 4 - ACLU Testimony H.4733 General Government Bond Bill

May 28 - ACLU Testimony Emergency Paid Sick Leave

May 21 - Augusto v. Moniz

May 14 - ACLU Testimony in Support of HD5075 - Safeguarding Fall 2020 Elections

May 8 - ACLUM FOIA Request 

May 8 - ACLU of Massachusetts Amicus Letter in Foster v. Mici

May 5 - ACLU Testimony in Support of Decarceration and COVID-19

April 29 - Letter to Municipal Officials Regarding Masks Orders 

*Cambridge has now revised its ordinance to provide an exemption for some persons with disabilities, although we are still asking them to make further changes to ensure all qualified persons with disabilities are protected*

April 24 - MA Advocates Follow-Up Letter to Hospitals

April 22 - Response to Revised MA Crisis Standards of Care (CSC)

April 22 - ACLU of Massachusetts Letter to Key Leaders on Voting Rights in MA

April 21 - Tracking COVID-19 in Massachusetts Prisons and Jails 

April 17 - Testimony Support of Public Reporting of COVID-19 Data from Eldercare Facilities

April 16 - ACLU Briefing Paper: Principles for Technology-Assisted Contact-Tracing

April 15 - Grinis v. Spaulding 

April 14 - ACLU of Massachusetts and Massachusetts Public Health Association Letter to Governor Baker

April 8 - ACLU Briefing Paper: The Limits of Location Tracking in an Epidemic

April 5 - Call for Strong Moratorium on Evictions and Foreclosures

April 2 - ACLU of Massachusetts and Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation at Harvard Law School Letter

March 27 - Electoral and Voting Integrity in the Time of COVID-19: Principles and Recommendations

March 25 - Rodas v. Moniz

March 24 - Committee for Public Counsel Services v. Chief Justice of the Trial Court

March 18 - ACLU of Massachusetts Letter to Criminal Legal System Officials

March 14 - ACLU of Massachusetts Letter to Public Officials

March 12 - ACLU of Massachusetts Letter to ICE Boston

March 10 - ACLU of Massachusetts COVID-19 Response Recommendations


Op-eds and Blogs




December 21 - ACLU, defense groups call for increased COVID-19 testing, reduced population in MA jails

December 9 - Statement of the ACLU of Massachusetts on vaccine distribution plan

May 12 - Coalition presses Baker to reduce prison population (State House News Service)

April 30 - Massachusetts could pursue coronavirus contact tracing app (MassLive)

April 28 - SJC repeats view that Governor Baker's office is in charge of releasing sentenced inmates, not courts (Boston Globe)

April 27 - Hearing on Devens lawsuit begins (Lowell Sun)

April 20 - Privacy Concerns During the COVID-19 Pandemic (NECN)

April 17 - Advocates call on Governor Baker to release inmates as COVID-19 spreads in jails, prisons (

April 15 - Mass. Federal Prison A COVID-19 'Powder Keg,' Suit Claims (Law360)

April 13 - Mass. ACLU Calls On Baker Administration To Prioritize Equity, Privacy In COVID-19 Response (WAMC)

April 10 - Data show blacks disproportionately affected by COVID infections in Boston (Bay State Banner)

April 8 - Boston neighborhoods most impacted by COVID-19 have highest number of essential workers, non-white residents (MassLive)

April 3 - Mass. Top Court Expands Pretrial Release To Combat Virus (Law360)

March 31 - SJC hears arguments over releasing some inmates during the pandemic (Boston Globe)

March 28 - ICE releases 2 detainees for health concerns (Associated Press)

March 25 - Trump Administration Urged to Free Migrants From Detention as Virus Surges (Associated Press)

March 25 - Releasing ICE Detainee, Judge Says Jail No Safer Than Court (Law360)

March 24 - ACLU of Mass., CPCS and defense lawyers ask SJC to release defendants held pretrial in effort to curb COVID-19 outbreaks (MassLive)

March 19 - Suffolk DA Takes Steps To Release 'Vulnerable' Inmates Amid Outbreak (WBUR)

March 19 - Mass. ACLU calls on ICE to halt detentions during coronavirus outbreak (

March 19 - Suffolk district attorney’s office is identifying most ‘vulnerable’ jail inmates for release (Boston Globe)

March 18 - The coronavirus pandemic is changing how some Mass. authorities process certain crimes (Boston Globe)

March 18 - ACLU of Massachusetts urges release of inmates ‘particularly vulnerable’ to COVID-19 with short prison sentences (MassLive)

March 16 - Advocates, Attorneys Call For Immediate Release Of Non-Criminal Immigrants In ICE Custody (WBUR)

March 16 - At ICE Boston office, all scheduled immigration check-ins happening by phone (Boston Globe)