Prisoners ‘Terrified’ as Coronavirus Spreads Behind Bars

Originally published by The New York Times on 30/03/2020


Prisons across the country are reporting increases in Covid-19 diagnoses, where social distancing is impossible and sanitizer is widely banned. Hunger strikes in immigrant detention centers have been reported. Authorities have been prompted to release thousands of inmates in an effort to slow the spread of infection, preserve medical resources and save lives. Attorney General Barr has ordered an assessment of at-risk nonviolent inmates who have served much of their sentence in considering early release or home confinement. Possible release involved a complex set of criteria and would not result in immediate transfer because of the concern that the prisoner could further spread the virus once freed. The releases vary from state to state: in Cleveland, Ohio a judge led an effort to expedite cases for inmates awaiting trial. Proceedings that would typically run 60-90 days were resolved within 2-3 days; in New York City, some inmates who were convicted of non-violent crimes and serving sentences of less than one year have been released; in Los Angeles, releases have been limited to inmates who were scheduled for release in 30 days or fewer and had been convicted of nonviolent misdemeanors . Deputies have also been instructed to make fewer arrests and the Sheriff has asked the district attorney and courts to delay some criminal proceedings.

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