As of March 9th, the New York Times reported, there were an estimated 600 cases of corona virus in the United States. As of March 25th, there are 55,081 cases of Corona Virus in the United States, and 785 deaths. The Coronavirus has started to infect our jails and prisons. Dr. Jeff Keller, medical director for the Bonneville County Jail, in Idaho, stated,“Once (coronavirus) gets into an enclosed system like that, it kind of gets wild.”Because correctional facilities are a unique environment, there are complicated issues, such as visitation, security, etc.
What is Happening in our Jails and Prisons:
Approximately 38-40 individuals, who are inmates or work in the New York City jail system, have tested positive for the coronavirus. Monitored patients in the New York City jails contagious disease and quarantine units have doubled from 26 to 56 in less than a week. Jail officials anticipate an increase in the number of infected inmates.
Scott Hechinger, a Brooklyn public defender reported to the Washington Post,“Every single person now trapped on Rikers and other jails throughout New York State, serving short sentences for non-violent and other low-level offenses, will be released shortly anyway… Why risk turning a couple of months for low-level drug possession or petit theft into a death sentence?” Mayor Bill de Blasio has ordered the release of 300 nonviolent inmates from Rikers Island.
On Monday, the Michigan Department of Corrections reported one inmate has contracted the corona virus, and three correctional employees in different areas of Michigan have tested positive for COVID-19.
Jesse Lerner-Kinglake of Just Detention (inmates advocacy group), reported to Fox News, “The projections for the toll that the coronavirus might inflict on U.S. cities like New York are terrifying. But for prisons and jails, which are like small cities unto themselves, it is likely to get even more dire. Detention facilities are ripe for the spread of disease, given the rampant overcrowding and subpar health care… Worse still, many prisoners have HIV, diabetes, heart disease and other serious illnesses that put them at risk for developing complications from the coronavirus. Imagine New York City, but more crowded and with more sick people — and far fewer medical staff.”
Jails and prisons have no choice, but to take immediate action to protect inmates, correctional officers, and civilian employees from this Pandemic.