COVID-19 Prison Releases

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic devastating our communities has taken a toll on us all, but people in jails and prisons are some of the most vulnerable. A core principle of the Center for Integrity in Forensic Sciences is that all people deserve fair treatment and due process from our criminal legal system, including safety while incarcerated.

Incarcerated people are often high-risk when it comes to COVID-19. Many are elderly, have weakened immune systems, have chronic illnesses, or lack the nutritious diets that can help fight off disease. Even individuals who would be considered low-risk on the outside are vulnerable when incarcerated because of lack of access to necessities like soap and hand sanitizer and to opportunities to wash and stay away from others who are infected. The social distancing and hand hygiene experts agree is necessary to fight this pandemic is impossible in jails and prisons. Imprisoned people also lack access to the medical care that is necessary for COVID-19 patients.

Some jurisdictions have begun to release limited numbers of people, but many have not; some remain resistant to relief for these at-risk folks. But you can help! The Justice Collaborative has created a list of resources that includes templates of letters you can send to your elected officials (including not just state and national officials, but also local sheriffs, county commissioners, and city councilors) demanding they issue guidelines to prevent the spread of illness and the deaths of vulnerable people. For the Justice Collaborative’s list of resources, click here.

The Innocence Project has also compiled a list of resources for learning more about this public health crisis in jails and prisons. The article, titled The Coronavirus has Reached Jails and Prisons- But You Can Still Help, can be found here.

We are wishing you all the best and hope you are safe and well during this difficult time