Criminal Justice Amid the Pandemic of 2020

13 Pages Posted: 17 Nov 2020

See all articles by Mark William Osler

Mark William Osler

University of St. Thomas - School of Law (Minnesota)

Date Written: 2020


Tragedy is the very nature of criminal law. Every bit of it is about tragedy, from the pain of the victims to the harm done to offenders through punishment. The enterprise as a whole, even at its best, presents a practical and spiritual challenge to those that work within its dirty, clanking machinery. And then came 2020, bringing with it a pandemic which ravaged prisons, shuts down the courts, and destroyed the economy, especially for the least among us. Like a snow-globe that reveals its nature when shaken, the shocks of 2020 have revealed a striking and unsettling picture of criminal justice in the United States.

This book chapter is a first cut at describing some of that picture. It looks at the impact of the pandemic on prisons and jails, on crime, on its intersection with the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers, and something more deeply hidden but significant: 2020’s grinding away of the last bits of emotional connection to their work for some of the people who work in this dystopian system.

Keywords: Criminal law, criminal justice, COVID, George Floyd, Pandemic, Prisons

Suggested Citation

Osler, Mark William, Criminal Justice Amid the Pandemic of 2020 (2020). U of St. Thomas (Minnesota) Legal Studies Research Paper No. 20-23, Available at SSRN: or

Mark William Osler (Contact Author)

University of St. Thomas - School of Law (Minnesota) ( email )

MSL 400, 1000 La Salle Avenue
Minneapolis, MN Minnesota 55403-2005
United States
(254) 717-7032 (Phone)

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics