According to the CDC, coronavirus or Covid-19 is “an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.” Did you hear that? It is infectious, extremely infectious. It is a virus that affects the respiratory system. Stated by the World Health Organization “The COVID-19 virus spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes” You can become infected by coming to close contact (about 6 feet or 2 arms length) with a person who has Covid-19 or by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then by touching your mouth, nose, or eyes. The number one thing people are told to do to protect themselves is to avoid close contact with people, but prisoners are literally incapable of doing that. Covid-19 is most lethal to those who are elderly, have weak immune systems, or underlying/pre-existing conditions. Examples of underlying and pre-existing conditions being diabetes, high-blood pressure, heart disease, etc. So when it comes to prisoners who eat, sleep, and even bathe in close quarters, they are exceptionally at risk.
According to The Washington Post “Public health and corrections officials have issued dire warnings that cramped and unsanitary conditions could turn prisons into a haven for the virus, endangering not just inmates but also corrections officers and prison health-care workers as well as their families and communities”. Over 40,000 people have already died from Covid-19 in the United States alone according to the worldometer. Prisons would become a breeding ground for Covid-19, like a petri dish of bacteria that has been left open and uncontained and could increase that number by 10 fold. For those who are high risk, meaning the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions, It would only take one person getting the virus before their stay becomes a death sentence.
Lets get more in-depth on the conditions in prisons that makes it so unsafe for prisoners and prison faculty. According to the Equal Justice Initiative, in prison “People who need medical care, help managing their disabilities, mental health and addiction treatment, and suicide prevention are denied care, ignored, punished, and placed in solitary confinement.” and a sudden virus wouldn’t change these things rapidly or drastically. Also “Many American prisons are housing the maximum number of people they can hold—or more. In 2015, 27 states and the federal government operated their prisons near or above 100 percent capacity….Moreover, in overcrowded conditions, individuals experience extreme deprivation of privacy—they may be forced to sleep dozens to a room in day rooms, classrooms, or gymnasiums… In Brown v. Plata, the Supreme Court found that overcrowding in California prisons was the “primary cause” of suffering and deaths among those incarcerated, stemming from the “grossly inadequate provision of medical and mental health care.” Says Vera. Not only are the prisoners cramped together but they lack hygiene and cleaning products that could also aid in preventing the spread of the virus in these institutions. These hygiene products being hand sanitizer, gloves, and mask.
This has been a long disputed discussion amongst many and just shows how this pandemic has affected all.