RELEASE: Correctional Facilities Must Effectively Manage the Pandemic To Protect Incarcerated Populations, CAP Column Highlights

Washington, D.C. — The safety and health of U.S. prison and jail populations must be prioritized to protect incarcerated individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic and future emergencies, a new column released today by the Center for American Progress highlights. It comes as far too many incarcerated people have been affected by the pandemic due to the lack of emergency preparedness within U.S. correctional facilities.

At a federal level, Reps. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Karen Bass (D-CA), and Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) recently introduced the COVID-19 Correctional Facility Emergency Response Act of 2020 (H.R. 6414), which was incorporated into the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act that passed the House of Representatives on May 15, 2020.

Believing that the safety and health of prison and jail populations is long overdue, formerly incarcerated experts with JustLeadershipUSA point out that governments at all levels must take this opportunity to develop mandatory preparedness measures to implement during the current pandemic and in future national emergencies. This is why it launched the #JustUS campaign, an example of why people directly impacted by the criminal justice system must be centered in the development of reform policies.

Some key policy recommendations from the organization include:

  • Create a an eight-member advisory board consisting of at least two formerly incarcerated individuals that provides recommendations on and assistance with developing a “decarceration and emergency plan” for correctional facilities
  • Establish a criterion for release that prioritizes individuals most vulnerable to the emergency, such as “individuals over age 50” and those with “documented illnesses” and “compromised immune systems”
  • Set limitations on intake into state correctional facilities during an emergency, as well as expedited court processing and more use of incarceration alternatives
  • Assure proper medical care, nutrition, safety, and overall support for the well-being of individuals who do not qualify for release during an emergency

“The lack of regard for incarcerated individuals has led to America’s correctional facilities becoming hot spots for the coronavirus. It is now time to put an end to the cycle of neglect in the midst of crisis and protect the rights of individuals behind bars,” said Akua Amaning, associate director for Criminal Justice Reform at CAP and author of the column. “Lawmakers must listen to directly impacted people and ensure incarcerated individuals are protected during this national emergency while simultaneously developing a broader emergency preparedness plan for future crises.”

Read the column:A Call for Effective Emergency Management in Correctional Facilities During COVID-19” by Akua Amaning

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