COVID-19 is now becoming a threat that takes our system’s inhumanity to a new and even more horrific level

14 May 2020   |   by Carson Dougherty
“This is a public health crisis that threatens to become a humanitarian disaster"

“This is a public health crisis that threatens to become a humanitarian disaster", says Mary Bassett (who was the New York City Health Commission) in the New York Times, "COVID-19 is now becoming a threat that takes our system’s inhumanity to a new and even more horrific level: we know that the virus spreads in confined groups with frightening speed and efficiency. In a prison environment, huge numbers will die. Essentially, we are transforming their sentence of incarceration into a sentence to death."

Mary Bassett

While there is mounting outcry and lobbying for those like Governor Newsom and NY Governor Cumo and President Trump to " save lives " by releasing prisoners, the harsh reality is that it may take longer to accomplish than we can afford.

As the CDC, the ACLU, the President, and most prosecutors warn, there's a ticking time bomb waiting to explode around the 2.3 millions prisoners locked up. Every day, more stories of injustice come to light. In Terminal Island prison in California, over half of the inmates have coronavirus and prisoners have been moved to an old warehouse, infested by bats and pigeons, littered with their feces. In Elkton, Ohio, seven prisoners have died and the governor has called in the National Guard for help.

As of April 21st the Washington Post reports “This month, the Bureau of Prisons took the rare step of imposing a nationwide lockdown, with all 146,000 inmates ordered to stay in their cells. With inconsistent access to soap and disinfectant and social distancing difficult to maintain, American prisons are becoming incubators for the coronavirus. Thousands of inmates are getting sick, and guards are spreading the virus back out to the larger community. This week, a single Ohio prison has become a top hot spot in the country, with 1,950 inmates — 78 percent of the prison population — testing positive for the virus.”

Another April 21st article says it well: “Staff and union officials are furious at the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ leadership, alleging that the lack of preparation and disjointed response has led to dangerous working conditions and allowed the coronavirus outbreak to spiral out of control in prisons. Nearly 500 inmates and more than 300 staff have tested positive for COVID-19 at 59 BOP facilities across the country. Twenty-two inmates have died.”

The situation continues to worsen. As of April 29th a new shocking figure emerged “figures provided by the Bureau of Prisons show that out of 2,700 tests systemwide, nearly 2,000 have come back positive, strongly suggesting there are far more COVID-19 cases left uncovered”. The same article says “Advocates and even prison guards have been calling for reforms to head off outbreaks in a prison system plagued for years by violence, misconduct and staffing shortages. Nearly 350 staff members have tested positive.” “Staff are sent around the country to pick up shifts, and union officials say the shortages are still so severe that officers are sometimes working 24 hours in a row.

And unfortunately unless we help, it could continue to get worse. "We think it's going to be a virus that stalks the human race for quite a long time to come until we can all have a vaccine to protect us,"