Incarceration & Our Current Health Crisis

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The world is in a current health crisis due to the spread of the COVID-19 virus (better known as the Coronavirus). There has been a massive shut down of different businesses, except for those employed in industries considered “essential”. This epidemic has negatively impacted many people across the world. There are some who have been able to find some positives within this experience, such as the ability to work from home or considerations of canceling some student loan debt. But there are people who are often forgotten and not considered, like those located in prisons, jails, halfway houses, quarter-way houses, and other residential communities.

But there are people who are often forgotten and not considered, like those located in prisons, jails, halfway houses…

With a focus on those who are incarcerated, these persons do not have the luxury of practicing social distancing (being 6 feet or more away or being limited to being in spaces with 10 or less people). The privilege of social distancing is nonexistent for those incarcerated due to the  constraints of confinement and the requirement of supervision, including being around staff and others inmates. These conditions make them more susceptible to obtain this virus and likely others diseases. Additionally, we must consider those who may be incarcerated with autoimmune diseases and/or 65 + years old. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) list the follow person as high risk for obtaining COVID-19 virus:

  • People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
  • People who have serious heart conditions
  • People who are immunocompromised including cancer treatment
  • People of any age with severe obesity (body mass index [BMI] >40) or certain underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, such as those with diabetes, renal failure, or liver disease might also be at risk
  • People who are pregnant

If we couple these issues with incarceration, this population becomes extremely vulnerable. This population is not only vulnerable, but they have limited rights. The first section of the 13th amendment describes slavery as legal only if one is convicted of a crime. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. Incarcerated persons have limitations to their access to basic human rights, LEGALLY. Due to societal stigmas and assumption, it becomes easier for this population to experience excessive hardship, barriers, and/or exploitation.  Exploitation should never be circumstantial. The Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights explore the necessity to release those who pose no danger to the public, but create an increase risk to the public if they remain incarcerated.

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime

CALL TO ACTION:

  • Use email and/or social media to reach out to your state representatives and governor and express your concerns about those who are incarcerated. Be sure call for fair practices (be specific if possible) and access to basic human rights.

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