We are calling on both public and private actors within the criminal legal system to take the appropriate steps to prevent and contain the spread of COVID-19 within state prisons, local jails, and detention centers and in the communities in which they are located across the country.
These lawmakers and decision-makers have the power to ensure that a timely and humane response can alleviate the impact of COVID-19 on incarcerated people.
Why is this important?
It is not a matter of if but when the coronavirus will enter prisons and jails, according to health experts. The consequences of that eventuality will be devastating. COVID-19 outbreaks in prisons and jails will spread “like wildfire” due to close quarters, unsanitary conditions, a population that is more vulnerable to COVID-19, and the large number of people that cycle through the criminal justice system. The risk extends far beyond those who are incarcerated. COVID-19 outbreaks in jails and prisons threaten the larger public, as hundreds of thousands of individuals churn through jails on a daily basis and correctional, medical and other staff interact with the incarcerated population and circulate back into communities. With 2.3 million people in the United States in prison or jail on any given day, an outbreak in these facilities poses a threat to the entire country. If federal, state, and local officials take swift action, they can not only prevent the spread of COVID-19 inside prisons, jails, and detention centers and ensure the safety and wellness of our loved ones behind cages, but they can also have an enormous impact on the wellness of the rest of the country.