The fight against the COVID-19 virus has shaken the world at large, affecting every aspect of our lives. The economy of the world, education, organizations, and institutions have all been put on hold, to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. But, What Are Helpful Measures To Reduce Mass Incarceration During A Pandemic?
The message preached by the health organizations to help
control the spread of the virus has mainly been a matter of social distancing.
It has been stated that safe distancing would stop the spread of the virus, and
necessitate the end of the deadly disease. The fact stated above, the world at
large has been placed on lockdown in a reasonable bid to reduce social contact
and the spread of the disease.
However, the results have still been devastating as the
United States records major cases of the virus within its border every day and
putting it into consideration that best practices have been put in place. The
so-called free are continually battling this puzzling disease, without full
proof of solutions in sight, how then do the not-so-free handle this situation?
Yes, the question being asked is, how the United States
Bureau of Prisons are handling the COVID-19 reality within their facilities?
What is the fate of inmates, in this fight against the COVID-19 virus? Are the
inmates in incarceration practicing viable social distancing practices? Or are
they being left to die, due to their current situation?
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Correctional Facilities And The COVID-19 Virus
The prison system, just like every other institution, has
been affected by the ravaging hands of the COVID-19 virus. The spread of the
disease has been appalling due to the concentration of prisoners in the
correctional centers and the lack of proper housing facilities for the inmates.
This factor alone has spiked the tumultuous increase in the system and has
raised a lot of concerns among their loved ones and the people in general.
The absence of proper sanitation processes has added to the
easy spread amongst their ranks, leading to the outcry by the inmates and the
health community. The deaf ears of authorities have led to some prisoners
initiating protests to allow for better solutions to the fight against the
spread of the virus. This has led to the release of some prisoners by some
countries that are trying to curtail the spread of the virus and reduce the
population of their prison systems.
Looking at the United States prison system, according to
the article by Angelina Chapin, she said an average of 2.3 million inmates can
be found in the 6000 correctional facilities in the United States. This figure
is staggering and has been a problem for the officials of the correctional
facilities to handle beforehand, and now they must do so while coping with the
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How then do the inmates and staff who inhabit these
overpopulated encampments cope without having to pass around the virus from one
person to the other? These are prisoners who are prohibited from having access
to alcohol-based hand sanitizers and then expected to protect themselves
against the spread. The odds and not in their favor and the United States
Department of Justice should make a rule of considering the inmates'
According to the data released by the Bureau of Prison as
of May 10, 2020, the prison system has recorded a total of 3319 Federal inmates
and 250 staff who have contracted the COVID-19 virus. The reported deaths,
according to the Bureau of Prisons, is put at 48 amongst the federal prison
inmates and a total of 935 recoveries among the staff and inmates. This
information can be scary to the inmates, loved ones of the inmates, and staff
who have been put at risk of the virus.
Combating The COVID-19 Virus In Our Prisons
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The year 2018 saw the president of the United States,
Donald Trump, signed into law the First Step Act. This Act, which mandates the
Attorney General to create an assessment capturing the needs and risk of
recidivism amongst inmates, which would be used by the United States Bureau of
Prison in selecting inmates who are prepared for re-entry into the society.
This move seems like an overthought and should be applied
in combating the spread of the COVID-19 virus amongst inmates. Although this Act
may not adequately de-populate the prison systems, the move gives access to the
application of several other methods of decongesting correctional
The introduction of early inmate release via home confinement or through Compassionate Release can save lives and reduce prison sentences for mild and non-violent offenders, reduce probation, and early parole dates are moves that can be taken by the authorities to counter the spread of the virus. Compassionate Release is a process where prisoners with extraordinary or compelling circumstances may be eligible for immediate release for circumstances that were not foreseen by the courts when they were sentenced.
In situations where the inmates are serving a majority percentage of prison time, home confinement could be put in place, as the inmates are first properly corrected for institution back into society, and the use of ankle monitors would keep them at home for the period of their home confinement. All these factors should be considered as prisoner release guidelines amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
The ways through which the prison system can be de-clogged
are numerous, which would keep a larger percentage of inmates and staff safer.
It should be known that many inmates have excellent Good Time ratings or time
credits, which show how well they have conducted themselves under prison rules
and completed educational or vocational programs. So, why do they still have
them locked up during periods like this unless maybe the officials or the
system does not have trust in the duties of their correctional facilities?
The recent data released by the BOP also initiated the Bureau's approval of home confinement for inmates who have compromised immune systems, or those with pre-existing conditions as regulated by the Center for Disease Control. These moves also serve as remedies for release, as an inadequate assessment of these release clauses could bring about release setbacks after this pandemic blows away.
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Some schools of thought may favor fighting for better
equipping prison infirmaries. Results being released by the Bureau of Prisons
would show how prison infirmaries are handling the COVID-19 virus with
quarantining and isolation of prisoners.
In conclusion, since the enactment of the First Step and
Emergency Cares Act, some prisoner advocates may believe that measures to
release vulnerable prisoners to home confinement and reduce mass incarceration
should be adequately and immediately carried out. They, prisoners, the loved
ones of inmates, and other supporters may believe that the lives of inmates
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