How Prepared Are State Prison Systems for a Viral Pandemic?
Date:  04-21-2020

Prison Policy Initiative was not encouraged by the answers they received from prisons that replied to their survey
From Prison Policy Initiative:

Many local jails and pretrial systems are taking action to reduce their populations in advance of the COVID-19 pandemic, but state prison systems are not, raising the question: Are state prisons prepared to handle a pandemic within their walls? We set out to survey prison systems on the capacity of their health facilities, their plans for any necessary external hospitalizations, their levels of equipment, their staffing levels and their general priorities.

Unfortunately, our April 3-10 survey shows that state prisons are still largely unprepared for a global pandemic that can reasonably be expected to hit their entire state prison system — and their supporting state government — all at the same time.

Most prisons are still aiming to keep the virus out of their facilities, rather than focusing on how to minimize the harm to incarcerated people, to their staff and to society as a whole. Containment might be a reasonable goal when it comes to outbreaks of flu, tuberculosis, or MRSA – diseases that prison systems know how to guard against by vaccinating people, screening, and so on. But COVID-19 is different both in terms of how it spreads and by the fact that it is already stressing the public hospital system that state prisons historically rely on for back-up support.

Given the number of large number of staff required to run a facility and the apparent ease with which asymptomatic people can infect others, no combination of security restrictions — such as suspending family visitation, checking the temperature of incoming staff, or confining the entire population to their cells — can keep out the virus that causes COVID-19 for long. And once the virus enters a facility, the density and lack of sanitation will allow it to spread quickly to all incarcerated people and staff, and will accelerate the spread to the surrounding community. Continue reading >>>