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Southern Poverty Law Center’s Lisa Graybill details horrors of virus in prisons

(Photo credit: / Joseph Sohm)

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread across the nation, prisons have been overwhelmingly affected.

In the New York City Department of Correction system, 287 inmates and 441 employees have tested positive for COVID-19.

In several states, including Louisiana, Alabama, Michigan and Illinois, prisons have also been hit hard by the virus.

Lisa Graybill, who serves as deputy legal director at the Southern Poverty Law Center, recently spoke with rolling out about the horrors of the COVID-19 pandemic in prisons and what can be done to reverse this trend.When did the Southern Poverty Law Center initially decide to make the public aware of the dangers of COVID-19 in prisons?

In mid-March, we sent out letters to the governors of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida with a list of recommendations for them to take to minimize the risk of COVID-19 spread in their facilities.

First, we’ve urged them to release people. There are literally hundreds and thousands of folks in the jail systems who are within months and days of their release and are eligible for parole who could be safely released back into the community. That’s the very best way to prevent the spread inside of facilities.

The racist driven approach to mass incarceration is how we got so many people in prison in the first place. When you’re in prison or jail, which the public health officials call a congregate setting, it’s inherently impossible to stay 6 feet apart from everybody. People who are in prison often don’t have easy access to things such as soap, water or hand sanitizer.

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