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

Lisa Graybill is deputy legal director at the Southern Poverty Law Center. (Photo courtesy of Southern Poverty Law Center)

Can you speak about the lack of medical attention for prisoners who have contracted COVID-19?

We’ve heard of family members and people on the inside who are terrified because they’ve got a fever, a cough or because they bunk with somebody who does. Those folks aren’t being segregated, they aren’t getting tested.

COVID-19 enters facilities from the outside. It comes in with staff members or vendors or people being transferred in. Once it gets in, it spreads so rapidly. There is a lack of availability of personal protective equipment, so they’re just sitting ducks.

What steps should be taken right now to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in prisons?

I’ve seen pictures of where they’re putting prisoners in Rikers Island who died, and it’s horrifying. It’s important that we get people out and get information in. Time is of the essence.

We’re still dealing with an aspiration towards prevention because it hasn’t swept through every facility in our region yet. Soon, these efforts will be shifting into dealing with the crisis itself as people become incredibly sick and the systems are overwhelmed. It’s important to let people out and provide equipment for people who are inside.

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