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COVID-19 exposes and exacerbates existing crisis in the prison system

(Photo credit: Shutterstock.com / LightField Studios)

It’s no secret that the jails and prisons have been understaffed and overcrowded and that the quality of care provided to prisoners is poor at best. Add a global pandemic to the mix, and you have a recipe for disaster.

For some reason, the justice system doesn’t view incarcerated persons as human or as having rights. They often are denied basic needs such as food, water, clothing and health care. And despite all of the organizations that advocate for prison reform and institutions that work tirelessly to improve prison conditions for inmates, the lack of funding for these initiatives has prevented any real change or improvement.

COVID-19 has had a ripple effect on all of the injustices and inhumane treatment of those individuals behind prison walls. Even without the prisons being overcrowded, the nature in which incarcerated persons are housed, are fed, spend recreational time and receive medical attention violates the social distancing order put in place.

Prisoners do not have the luxury of practicing social distancing and are therefore at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 and continuing to spread it. There is a shortage of COVID-19 tests for those in prison, so the rate at which inmates are tested and cared for after receiving positive test results is almost nonexistent.

Some of the incarcerated individuals who were forced to endure these disease-ridden conditions have reacted violently, causing injuries and death inside the prison walls and further increasing exposure and contraction of the disease.

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