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March 21, 2020

More headlines provide more windows on the intersection of incarceration and the coronavirus

I now feel almost compelled to do a new post every day with the latest headlines on the coronavirus infecting prisoners and staffers.  Today's round up of stories will include a few headlines that also compel a bit of extra commentary:

Colorado: "22 inmates at Denver’s two jails under observation after showing coronavirus symptoms, none have been tested"

Georgia: "Three inmates test positive for coronavirus in Georgia as concerns grow over unprepared prison system"

Massachusetts: "First coronavirus case in Massachusetts prison confirmed by officials"

Montana: "Yellowstone County jail employee tests positive for COVID-19"

New York: "Employee in Erie County Jail Management Division tests positive for coronavirus"

National: "Police groups slam cities and states releasing jail inmates to mitigate coronavirus fears"

The first and last pieces in this round-up prompt my additional commentary.  The first piece highlights that a considerable number of inmates are exhibiting systems but have not been tested for coronavirus in Denver.  While I have highlighted in recent posts that more than a dozen states have a prisoner or staffer who has tested positive for COVID-19, I am depressingly confident that some person connected to some penal facility in every part of our nation carries the virus.  Testing everywhere has been limited, and it is all but certain that many, many inmates and staffers who have the virus just have not yet been tested.  With every state now having confirmed COVID-19 cases, surely every state's penal system has yet-to-be-tested COVID-19 cases.

The last piece highlights that at least some players in our carceral state seem to be content with the risk that any jail or prison sentence could turn into a possible death sentence thanks to COVID-19.  I can understand instinctual concerns about a mass release of the most dangerous of all convicted offenders, but most persons in local jails are by definition not among the most dangerous convicted offenders.  And with research suggesting that almost "40 percent of the U.S. prison population — 576,000 people — are behind bars with no compelling public safety reason," I sure wish it was not a pipe-dream to expect all police and prosecutors to be working together with public health and criminal justice advocates to move home all those who are now incarcerated, but not a threat to public safety, and yet facing a unique and unjust danger behind bars.

Prior coronavirus posts on jails and prisons:


UPDATESunday morning often is a time I try to get off-line, but this morning I cannot avoid these latest ugly new headlines:

"Top official says New York City coronavirus jail outbreak is a crisis, dozens infected"

"First federal inmate tests positive for coronavirus"

Pennsylvania: "Three inmates, five employees infected at county prison"

March 21, 2020 at 04:44 PM | Permalink


Thank you so much for all the information you put out everyday. I find your humanity for those incarcerated to be a blessings, as not everyone in jail are monstrous human beings and still deserve their civil liberties...

Posted by: Shanta Paris | Mar 21, 2020 8:44:11 PM

Thanks, Shanta. That means a lot to me.

Posted by: Douglas A Berman | Mar 22, 2020 10:50:41 AM

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