Vera Issues New Guidance to Protect People Behind Bars from COVID-19 as Prisons and Jails Grow into America's Biggest Pandemic Clusters
Date:  05-13-2020

Vera reports prisons and jails account for 10 out of 15 of America’s biggest COVID-19 clusters.
From a Vera Institute press release:

NEW YORK, NY — Today, (May 11) as part of its efforts to protect people most at risk of contracting COVID-19, the Vera Institute of Justice issued a guidance brief urging Attorney General Barr, governors, sheriffs, and corrections administrators to take immediate action to stem the explosion of COVID-19 cases in jails, prisons, and detention centers. Warned for weeks about the impending crisis, people behind bars are now facing the consequences of slow and inadequate government responses. Thousands of lives are at risk.

As of Sunday, May 10, 10 of the 15 biggest COVID-19 clusters in the country are jails and prisons, including two prisons in Ohio with a combined total of more than 4,000 people infected. State facilities in Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, and Texas, as well as a federal prison in California with more than a 70 percent positive test rate, are also included in the top 15.

Vera calls on leaders at all levels of federal, state, and local government to address the looming crisis by:

  • Responsibly and rapidly reducing populations behind bars, beginning with those at the highest risk of illness and death due to COVID-19, including those who are elderly or have serious underlying medical conditions.

  • Testing as widely as possible. If mass testing is unavailable, jails, prisons, and detention centers should implement daily sick calls for all incarcerated people to identify potential infections early.

  • Providing personal protective equipment (PPE) to everyone in facilities and increasing access to showers and laundry daily to prevent infection and spread.

    Ensuring frequent medical and mental health services in quarantine and medical isolation, including providing ample access to medical staff multiple times a day for routine care, monitoring symptoms, and responding to queries, in addition to addressing emergent issues. Continue reading >>>.