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May 12, 2020

Vera Institute of Justice issues new guidance brief urging action to respond to coronavirus in correctional facilties

As detailed in this press release, yesterday "the Vera Institute of Justice issued a guidance brief urging Attorney General Barr, governors, sheriffs, and corrections administrators to take immediate action to stem the explosion of COVID-19 cases in jails, prisons, and detention centers."  Here is more from the press release:

Warned for weeks about the impending crisis, people behind bars are now facing the consequences of slow and inadequate government responses.  Thousands of lives are at risk.

As of Sunday, May 10, 10 of the 15 biggest COVID-19 clusters in the country are jails and prisons, including two prisons in Ohio with a combined total of more than 4,000 people infected.  State facilities in Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, and Texas, as well as a federal prison in California with more than a 70 percent positive test rate, are also included in the top 15.

Vera calls on leaders at all levels of federal, state, and local government to address the looming crisis by:

  • Responsibly and rapidly reducing populations behind bars, beginning with those at the highest risk of illness and death due to COVID-19, including those who are elderly or have serious underlying medical conditions.
  • Testing as widely as possible. If mass testing is unavailable, jails, prisons, and detention centers should implement daily sick calls for all incarcerated people to identify potential infections early.
  • Providing personal protective equipment (PPE) to everyone in facilities and increasing access to showers and laundry daily to prevent infection and spread.
  • Ensuring frequent medical and mental health services in quarantine and medical isolation, including providing ample access to medical staff multiple times a day for routine care, monitoring symptoms, and responding to queries, in addition to addressing emergent issues.

All the recommendations align with public health standards and Vera’s values of ending mass incarceration while ensuring the safety and human dignity of those who live and work in the criminal legal system....

During the first week of May, positive cases in U.S. prisons increased 39 percent over the previous week, for a total of more than 20,000 cases and 325 known deaths of people in jails and prisons.

May 12, 2020 at 01:10 PM | Permalink


I have two thoughts on the issue. Your blog is an excellent resource and I am a supporter of CJ reforms.
1) I am concerned that the BOP's ramped up testing by deploying a Point Of Care (POC) testing that was touted by the POTUS "Abbott ID NOW" platform has a significant "False Negative Rate". A study by Cleveland clinic has shown it to be 85 % sensitive and another study as low as 75 %. This would mean one out of four positives can be missed by the test and that person would be in "Covid free" areas of the general population leading to the spreading go the virus. This flies in the face of Government's repeated assertion that their facility is "safe".
2) I am yet to see some co-ordination between the Red Cross and BOP and the State Department of Corrections to facilitate recovered inmates contributing their plasma which is in short supply in the treatment of Covid-19 patients. Sentence commutation/reduction would create a win-win situation all around.

Posted by: Satish | May 12, 2020 1:41:16 PM

Excellent points!

Posted by: Doug B | May 12, 2020 2:52:11 PM

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