CDC recommendations regarding COVID-19 are changing as our understanding of the spread, treatment, and management of the virus evolves. Many of the recommendations below are based on current CDC recommendations, but people responsible for protecting incarcerated and supervised populations should routinely monitor CDC updates and information from their local health departments – including county, city, and tribal health departments.
The United States incarcerates over 2.3 million people in prisons and jails, with many facilities operating well over capacity. Incarcerated persons have higher rates of underlying health issues than members of the general public, including higher rates of respiratory disease, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, and other conditions that suppress immune response. The close conditions and lack of access to hygiene products in prisons and jails make these institutions especially susceptible to viral pandemics. Incarcerated persons often avoid seeking medical attention because of medical co-pays and lengthy wait times, which create a lag in identifying and treating conditions, leading to an increase in the severity and spread of illness. The spread of communicable viral disease in the United States constitutes a serious, heightened threat to the safety of incarcerated persons and correctional staff. The failure to contain and slow the spread of communicable viral disease in our jails and prisons creates a serious threat to the general public.
Related: Extraordinary Petition About Utah Jails and Prisons – ACLU of Utah;
Utah Supreme Court asked to order officials to let out more inmates in response to coronavirus – Salt Lake Tribune
The United States has over 4 million people under some form of correctional control through community supervision (parole or probation). Communicable viral disease can also be spread by unnecessarily aggregating persons under community supervision in administrative offices, and by requiring them to adhere to conditions of supervision that require travel and interfere with recommended social distancing and quarantine protocols.
REFORM Alliance suggests the following recommendations in 12 areas to prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 to and from incarcerated and supervised persons.
Related: An informal coalition of formerly incarcerated Hoosiers and Hoosiers who volunteer work in prison and re-entry programs recently shared a proposed Emergency Plan that could be used as a template for other states to follow suit. Titled, “COVID-19 and Indiana Prisons – An Emergency Plan To: Save Thousands of Lives, Make Prisons Manageable During the Pandemic, Generate Jobs, Minimize Societal Disruption, and Protect Prison Employees and Their Families” with principal contacts Kelsey Kauffman and Michelle Daniel. [March 31, 2020]