Compassion Over Politics: Stop The Spread Of COVID-19
Compassion Over Politics: Stop The Spread Of COVID-19
Locked up with COVID-19: How low-risk offenders are at high risk of COVID-19
It is no longer a question of if low-risk federal inmates will be exposed to COVID-19 but when. A reason prison can be dangerous amid the Corona Virus outbreak includes the lack of healthcare supplies, restraints on inmates, and being stuck in close proximity with others. Handcuffed people usually cannot protect their coughs nor sneezes, sinks often lack soap, and hand sanitizer is considered contraband due to it's alcohol content, the BBC reported.
Unlike medium and high security facilities in the federal prison system, low and minimum security facilities are open bay. There are no doors on the cells(which are cubicles) to lock and thus no way to isolate them from staff and other inmates. Add that to the fact that they are overwhelmingly overcrowded, the lack of sufficient, effective cleaning supplies, and are governed by staff who are improperly trained on how to protect themselves and inmates from exposure, these prisons are essentially powder kegs. All it takes is one match to set it off, one infected person to proliferate the virus, and that, for many low-custody inmates and staff, means very serious illness or even death.
A NY Times article outlined some of these risks, naming the complex in Coleman, FL specifically, citing how overcrowded the recreation yards, commissary, and living spaces are. They also mention cases of broken health equipment at other facilities and staff's negligence when it comes to people's health. One person's temperature read 89 degrees and the management argued that everyone's body temperature is different and refused to replace the thermometers(normal body temp. is 98.5).
Case and point, despite what certain BOP officials say, these inmates and staff members are not safer in these facilities - they're more at risk than anyone and history can support this claim. Jails and prisons often lack sufficient hand washing area, isolation rooms, and personal protective equipment. Food-borne illness due to Norovirus Campylobacter, Salmonella, Shigella, and Staphylococcus species and to Streptococcus pyogenes have been reported in correctional facilities. Outbreaks of influenza commonly occur in congregate living environments, such as correctional facilities. Ectoparasites, such as scabies and lice, are common problems in correctional facilities, also.
The 8th Amendment of the Constitution prohibits the government from imposing cruel and unusual punishment upon it's constituents. When prison officials intentionally place prisoners in dangerous surroundings, when they intentionally ignore prisoner's serious medical needs, or when they are deliberately indifferent either to the prisoner's health or safety, they violate the Constitution[See Cortez-Quinones v. Jimenez-Nettleship, 842 F.2D 556(1st civ. 1988)]. Despite the ongoing pressure from the U.S. Attorney General, congress, and even President Trump, the Bureau of Prisons continues to ignore their request(and public outcry) for releasing prisoners and placing them in home confinement to avoid the devastating effects of COVID-19 pandemic on the lives of the prisoners.
History has shown, and prison experts have voiced their opinion time and time again how the BOP has never been able to effectively control the outbreak of various infectious diseases within the federal prisons. Part of the reason behind the BOP's ineffectiveness is that the prisons were not designed to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Most of the BOP's personnel are trained to respond to emergencies such as riots, gang fights, escape attempts, etc., but not to handle infectious outbreaks. As far as the medical staff goes, most providers in the BOP are trained as family doctors, physician's assistants, and nurse practitioners; they are trained to treat and stabilize common ailments and diseases. In fact, most family medicine practitioners ahve never taken any training in handling infectious disease outbreaks. Since the 1980's the BOP has been found liable of slow response to wide spread outbreak of various diseases such as tuberculosis, chicken pox, MRSA, Norovirus, E.coli, which resulted in many serious and avoidable, permanent injuries and a series of lawsuits. Despite the overwhelming evidence that the BOP lacks the ability and the knowledge to conduct effective quarantines whether due to the lack of trained staff or equipped facility the BOP, even now, still has confidence in it's own ability to handle the COVID-19 pandemic whose devastating impact so far has cripples U.S. cities, exhausted most medical resources, caused sickness among hundreds of thousands of people, and left thousands dead in it's wake.
As international and domestic healthcare experts and prisoner advocates unanimously suggest, the only effective remedy to BOP has at this point is to release prisoners in the camps and low facilities and place them into a home confinement setting to prevent serious illness and preserve life. Again, the BOP has an obligation to ensure the safety and well-being of all prisoners while they serve their sentences. The inmates are entitles to a level of protection from bodily harm which includes illness[See Urratio v. Harrisburg County Police Dept. 91F.3d 451, 88(3rd Circ,1996); George v. Texas, 788 Fed 1098(8th Circ. 1986)].
As demonstrated by the past events at the current inaction of the BOP, we request that Congress and/or the President order the BOP to release all low and camp inmates and place them in home confinement immediately before great tragedy and loss of life could occur as a result of gross negligence by the BOP.
Do the American people approve of releasing low-minimum custody inmates to reduce the spread of Corona virus and save lives? Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., called for "low-risk" inmates in California federal prisons to be released from custody, according to a letter sent to the Federal Bureau of prisons(BOP) Director Michael Carvajal. Harris was quoted saying, "In the midst of this crisis, the BOP should be taking reasonable steps to reduce the incarcerated population and guard against potential exposure to Corona virus."
Many state jails and prison have already done just that. See below:
According to BBC, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has reduced it's inmate population by 600 in the last two weeks, officials said on Tuesday(March 31st, 2020).
In Florida, the Sheriff of Hillsborough County-located in the Tampa Bay area- announced the release of over 100 "low-level_ offenders on Thursday(April 3rd, 2020).
In Ohio, Sheriff Chad Chronister said 164 inmates will be released to protect the remaining inmate population and employees from the virus.
California is granting early release to 3,500 in an effort to reduce crowding as Corona virus infections begin spreading through the state prison system.
Besides reducing the spread of COVID-19 and saving the lives of inmates, staff, and the general public, what are the benefits to releasing these low and minimum custody inmates to home confinement? Keep reading:
The decision to place vulnerable in home confinement in the midst of the Corona virus pandemic has several meaningful benefits. The first and most important benefit is that the decision will preserve the lives of many prisoners and staff as well as protect many of them from the inevitable harm of the Corona virus. By sending the prisoners to serve their sentence at home not only will the Bureau of Prisons safeguard the prisoners from impending infection, but the BOP will also protect their own employees(as well as their loved ones from risking unnecessary disease contraction).
Second, the decision will help facilitate the benevolent intention and spirit of the FIRST STEP Act. Home confinement will allow the prisoners to become productive members of their families and communities once again, instead of being a burden to society. Besides the gift of live granted by the grace of God, this second chance given by the BOP will allow the prisoners the opportunity to redeem themselves. They could enroll and attend college or find any job which suits them best, something that is impossible to do inside the walls of prison.
The last benefit(to be mentioned) of the decision is the massive financial relief for the government. In 2019, the BOP estimated that it spent roughly $39,000 to house each federal inmate. There are currently 143,676 prisoners in federal prisons, about 39% of which are at low and camp custody level. This means the government could save approximately $2,185,443,000 a year! Plus once the Corona virus pandemic has ended, home confinement will allow the prisoners to work and contribute their income to help restore the economy. The decision, if made by the BOP, will benefit virtually everyone. If rehabilitation, safe re-entry, and saving lives during the COVID-19 pandemic are the BOP's goals, then we request the release of low and camp custody inmates immediately before any further tragedy could take place.