top
US
US
Indybay
Indybay
Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz
Indybay
Regions
Indybay Regions North Coast Central Valley North Bay East Bay South Bay San Francisco Peninsula Santa Cruz IMC - Independent Media Center for the Monterey Bay Area North Coast Central Valley North Bay East Bay South Bay San Francisco Peninsula Santa Cruz IMC - Independent Media Center for the Monterey Bay Area California United States International Americas Haiti Iraq Palestine Afghanistan
Topics
Newswire
Calendar
Features
From the Open-Publishing Calendar
From the Open-Publishing Newswire
Indybay Feature
Advocates Warn US Prison Conditions Risks Intense Coronavirus Outbreak
by Julia Conley
Thursday Mar 12th, 2020 10:15 AM
Prisoners' rights advocates are warning that the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. may soon have dire implications for the 2.2 million people living in the American penal system, as prison officials across the country shared little about their plans to keep inmates safe and many of the precautions Americans are being advised to take are unavailable in detention facilities.

In California, according to the Los Angeles Times, administrators in the state's prison system say they are basing contingency plans on those already in place for inmates who contract influenza, which call for "isolation zones" created by placing tape on floors but still allow for sick inmates to share toilets with those who are well.

"Unfortunately, given the volume of incarcerated people in America, the conditions under which they are detained, and the current spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, there is every reason to question whether American detention facilities, as a whole, are up to this challenge," National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers President Nina J. Ginsberg said in a statement last week.

In New York City, where at least 36 coronavirus cases have been reported, the Federal Defenders of New York are calling on the federal Bureau of Prisons to release plans to test inmates for coronavirus and treat people who contract the virus. According to Gothamist, the Bureau—which oversees two large prisons in the city—has yet to respond.

"It's a nightmare waiting to happen," David Patton, executive director of the Federal Defenders of New York, told Gothamist.

With hundreds and sometimes thousands of inmates living in close quarters with healthcare that experts have found to be deeply inadequate, detention facilities could quickly become dangerous for inmates and staff if the virus enters a facility from outside, which, as Maria Morris of the ACLU's National Prison Project wrote this week, is more likely than some might realize.

"Although people often think of prisons and jails as closed environments, they are not. Medical staff, correctional staff, and visitors come from the community into the facilities every day and then return home," wrote Morris in an op-ed. "There is ample opportunity for a virus to enter a prison or jail, and for it to go back out into the community."

"Even where people are housed in cells, the ventilation is often inadequate," added Morris. "People in prisons and jails are often denied adequate soap and cleaning supplies, making infection control nearly impossible."

Alcohol-based hand sanitizer is contraband in New York prisons.

At the Prison Policy Initiative, Peter Wagner and Emily Widra on Friday shared examples of "common sense policies" which could slow the spread of the virus among the prison population, including:

--Release medically vulnerable and older inmates

--Stop charging copays for medical care in prisons

--Lower jail admissions

--Reduce unnecessary probation and parole meetings

--End imprisonment for technical parole and probation violations, such as breaking a curfew or failing a drug test

Every plan to combat a public health epidemic must include "a commitment to continue finding ways...to minimize the number of confined people and to improve conditions for those who are incarcerated, both in anticipation of the next pandemic and in recognition of the every day public health impact of incarceration," Wagner and Widra wrote.

"The real question," they added, "is whether the criminal justice system and the political system to which it is accountable are willing to make hard decisions in the face of this potential pandemic, in the face of the one that will eventually follow, and in the context of the many public health costs of our current system of extreme punishment and over-incarceration."

Published under Creative Commons License from Common Dreams
Add Your Comments
LATEST COMMENTS ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
Listed below are the latest comments about this post.
These comments are submitted anonymously by website visitors.
TITLE AUTHOR DATE
A Doctor Who Works with the Prison Population writes..jj..Thursday Mar 12th, 2020 11:46 AM
We are 100% volunteer and depend on your participation to sustain our efforts!

Donate

donate now

$ 212.00 donated
in the past month

Get Involved

If you'd like to help with maintaining or developing the website, contact us.

Publish

Publish your stories and upcoming events on Indybay.

IMC Network