Attorney General William Barr wants to speed the process of sending selected inmates at prisons in Danbury, Ct., Oakdale, La., and Elkton, Oh., to home confinement because of the danger that serious levels of infection pose to elderly prisoners and those with pre-existing health conditions.
Louisiana Attorney General warned of a potential “crime wave” if state prisoners were freed during the pandemic. State Supreme Court Chief Justice Bernette Johnson urged minimizing jail populations to prevent a “potentially catastrophic” virus outbreak.
Inmates and officers across the state prison system cited a shortage of sanitizing products and lax policies at some prisons that still allowed inmates to play basketball and forced them to eat in close quarters.
As parole dates are advanced and inmates tear shirts and socks to make masks, federal judges are weighing whether California must take larger, more drastic steps to avert the spread of COVID-19 in its teeming prisons.
The REFORM Alliance, the advocacy group founded by rappers Meek Mill and Jay-Z, will send surgical masks to New York City’s Rikers Island jail complex and other prisons in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus among inmates.
Many of the individuals released from prison or jail to prevent the spread of coronavirus could end up in crowded shelters or similar places, where they will be just as vulnerable as they were inside, warns a former inmate. He calls on authorities to provide adequate resources to community organizations that can provide them with counseling and support.
Officials acted after concerns were raised by lawmakers, corrections officers and inmates that officials weren’t being aggressive enough in their response to the pandemic. At least 28 inmates and 24 staffers had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Tuesday.
Despite prisoner releases, the vast majority of America’s 2.3 million inmates live in ‘epidemiological tinderboxes,” warns Jody Lewen of the Prison University Project in a letter calling on authorities to take additional safety measures. Jails are a crucial hot zone, adds the Pew Public Safety Performance Project in a report showing that jail populations have remained unchanged despite decreases in admissions–largely because lengths of stay have increased.
Hundreds of cases are confirmed behind bars in New York, California, Michigan, Alabama and a dozen other states. Some in custody are afraid to report symptoms because they’ve seen others placed in solitary confinement for doing so.