Covid-19 Crisis in Prison
The practicum project focuses on the prisoners in different prisons in the United States with close reference to the Covid-19 period. Most of the reports on the Covid-19 crisis in prison are available on several organizational websites that focus on justice, human rights and health care. Some of the organizational websites that will be reviewed include the United Nations News, UNICEF, International Bar Association and Shared Justice.
In the United States, Covid-19 has impacted almost every sector. The Federal and state governments have been constantly issuing prescriptive health guidelines to reduce the spread of the virus. Despite the guidelines, the spread has been hiking on a daily basis posing a threat to industries and the economy in general. One of the areas that has been operational despite the outbreak of the pandemic is the prisons. It is very much important to focus on the more than 2.3 million Americans in the United States’ prisons held under criminal justice system (UN News, 2021). Covid-19 had a great impact on the Criminal Justice System especially affecting the locked up inmates.
Men and women behind bars have been overlooked during the pandemic as little attention has been given to them by the health sector. One of the health protocols in preventing the spread of Covid-19 is the social distancing strategy. Much of the prison practices involve direct contact with each other, something that poses a challenge in fully implementing the practice (Johnston, 2020). Prisoners are held in a tight room with little to no space. The approach towards correcting this situation across the country might take longer than the pandemic. Extra sanitization measures are another protocol which runs from self-sanitization to surfaces. Given that the prisoners have limited access to hygiene facilities and other basic items, it goes without saying that the effective implementation of the protocol is a night mare. It is recommended that in case of an infected person or an individual showing signs of Covid-19, the individual should be isolated and contact-tracing conducted to spot the other people whom they might have had contact with. Most of the prisoners are handled as a group and thus a single infection is likely to bring everything to a standstill and have a huge number of infections within a short period. There has however been some effort to combat the pandemic such as an end to in-person programming by the prison ministries to avert any possible spread. Proper health care is another crisis as pointed out by the UN. According to the UN news, more violence is getting witnessed in prisons necessitating for excessive use of force by authorities which leads to deaths. Covid-19 has heightened the risk of riots on human rights and humanitarian concerns which are not carefully addressed (McGoldrick, 2020).
In an open letter to Federal and State Policymakers and Correction Leaders, some criminal justice reform advocate for several Criminal Justice System changes to protect the most vulnerable groups in prison (Venis, 2020). Some of the reforms suggested include:
- Provision of alternative incarceration where desired such as the community correction use for person convicted of few crimes.
- Increase of compassionate and elderly release mechanisms to enable those who are more vulnerable to serve their sentence in more supportive and safer environment such as home confinement.
- Use of remote technology where possible to facilitate requisite hearings and expedite rulings about persons who merit parole, clemency and commutations.
It is the government’s responsibility to protect well-being and health of those under its watch in prison facilities. The above outlined actions are very crucial towards facilitating the government’s and Criminal Justice System’s responsibility on health during the Covid-19 pandemic. Some prisons have opted to reduce the number of prison visits and level of contact with inmates. In Arizona prisons, at least 569 prisoners at 13 of the state’s 16 prison complexes, tested positive for Covid-19 as at July 2020 (Keenehan, 2020).
It is evident that there are unaddressed issues concerning implementation of preventive measures to slow down the spread of Covid-19 pandemic despite the provided protocols which should be followed. The main challenges are space and facilities since prisoners are tightly packed with limited access to health care facilities. The prisoners are still living with the Covid-19 atomic bomb which might explode at any time. Prisons have insufficient funds to facilitate purchase of sanitizers, soaps and setting up water stations thus some measures have proved hard to implement unless enough funding is facilitated. Suggestions given in this study if implemented, can serve as a turning point for the prisons and save lives. Generally, prisons are yet to attain the required sanitary conditions, adequate medical staffing and treatment, and realization of a sensible and strong precautionary measures which are necessary in overcoming and averting Covid-19 pandemic in prisons.
In the practicum project, expectations include identifying various Covid-19 crisis in prisons and the different strategies that can be implemented to resolve them.
- To evaluate the vulnerability and risk of the Prisoners to the Covid-19 infection.
- To determine the level of preparedness and the measures put in place by the responsible authorities in dealing with Covid-19 in the prisons.
- To evaluate if the human rights laws are followed in the prisons during the Covid-19 period.
- To discuss the impact of Criminal Justice reform in light of the Covid-19 crisis.
The research will utilize a qualitative method in examining the procedures followed in handling the prisoners; measures put in place to control Covid-19 spread in the prisons, and cases of mistreatment or violence against the prisoner during the pandemic time as documented in different websites listed above. The qualitative method will aid in doing content analysis of different reports given by the media, scholarly articles, Human rights bodies, government reports, criminal and justice bodies. At the end of the analysis, it will be able to come up with validated results on the happenings which touch on the health issues of the prisoners. It will also utilize comparative analysis of different reports obtained for validity to ensure consistence of the findings.
COVID-19: UN teams step up efforts to protect rights in prisons, as revolts intensify worldwide. UN News. (2021). Retrieved 2 February 2021, from https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/05/1063292.
Johnston, T. (2020). A Crisis in Prison: COVID-19 and the Criminal Justice System — Shared Justice. Shared Justice. Retrieved 2 February 2021, from https://www.sharedjustice.org/most-recent/2020/5/14/a-crisis-in-prison-covid-19-and-the-criminal-justice-system.
Keenehan, K. (2020). A look inside the COVID-19 crisis in Arizona prisons. Cronkite News – Arizona PBS. Retrieved 2 February 2021, from https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/2020/07/17/coronavirus-crisis-arizona-prisons/.
McGoldrick, J. (2020). In light of COVID-19 crisis, UN officials call for immediate release of all children in detention, including Palestinian children. Unicef.org. Retrieved 2 February 2021, from https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/light-covid-19-crisis-un-officials-call-immediate-release-all-children-detention.
Venis, J. (2020). IBA – Covid-19: prisoners’ rights violations compounded by pandemic. Ibanet.org. Retrieved 2 February 2021, from https://www.ibanet.org/Article/NewDetail.aspx?ArticleUid=A336CA1E-4E29-41E2-B98D-0FC7FCD54B39.