When Covid-19 first began to change the world drastically, many news stations and articles always covered how people should stay safe during the pandemic. They gave tips like always wearing your mask or staying six feet away if you’re standing in a grocery store checkout line, but as the death rate increased no one really mentioned the people who are serving time in prison during this pandemic. Prisons in the United States have an estimated total of over 2.3 million people incarcerated as of today.
With the number of people currently in prison in the country, it’s a huge question on how workers in the prison are handling the pandemic to make sure not only that they’re safe but the safety of the inmates also. Inmates were given masks to attempt to slow down any spreads of Covid-19. Also, President Trump granted early release for many inmates that served half of their prison sentence, just to decrease the population in prisons and help slow the spread of Covid-19.
However, even with masks, some social distancing, and early compassionate release for some inmates the rates of Covid-19 in prisons are only increasing by the day. According to the New York Times, “More than 252,000 incarcerated people and staff have been infected with coronavirus and at least 1,450 have died.”
The number of cases, that’s been reported could be higher since they are conducting limited testing on incarcerated people. Many prisons won’t test incarcerated people who die after showing symptoms of Covid-19.
According to the Equal Justice Initiative, the largest outbreak of Covid-19 is linked to correctional facilities. Those correctional facilities being Marion Correctional Institution, with 2,443 cases, Miami-Dade County Jail, with 2,099 cases, and Ohio’s Pickaway Correctional Institution, with 1,791 cases. The largest coronavirus case cluster in a prison is at California’s San Quentin State Prison, there were more than 2,600 incarcerated people and staff members have been infected and 25 incarcerated people have died.
CBS Sunday Morning News created a video hosted by Ted Koppel where he explains prison time during the time of coronavirus. He speaks with current and former inmates to explain the living conditions in many prisons, which could also be one of the reasons that Covid-19 spreads in prisons. One inmate describes that many prisoners are “on top of each other” inside a room. This confirms that it’s hard for inmates to actually social distance in the prisons that they are serving their time in.
As the pandemic continues and many medical companies are rushing to create a vaccine, it’s important to wonder if the people that are in prison will be able to live in conditions that won’t make the virus spread so quickly. Cases continue to rise in the United States and hopefully, when it comes to combatting Covid-19, this includes ways for it to be handled in the many prisons in America also. Many inmates are in there serving time for a crime they committed (some are even in there and actually are innocent), they are still human beings that deserve the common safety that many that aren’t in prison have to combat the spread of Covid-19.