March 1, 2021
Times being what they are, I’ve blogged a lot about the spread of COVID in the jails and prisons throughout the country. And this difficult-to-read article in the New York Times (“Vulnerable Inmates Left in Prison As COVID Rages”) compels me to do so again.
According to the article, 620,000 inmates and corrections officials have contracted COVID, and some 2,800 have died from it (as I blogged some time ago, 80% of the Texas jail inmates who died of COVID had not been convicted of anything). And the conditions are not getting any better. Prisons are more densely populated than nursing homes, according to the Prison Policy Initiative; one study found that the coronavirus spread almost four times as quickly in a large urban jail as it had aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which saw one of the most terrifying outbreaks of the early pandemic.
Meanwhile, of the 151,735 people serving federal sentences right now, only 7,850 have been granted home confinement. In the Danbury, Connecticut facility, about 100 inmates have been granted home confinement, but the applications of another 550 — most of whom are incarcerated for nonviolent offenses like fraud or drug possession — are still pending.
As Nelson Mandela once said, “No one knows a nation until one has been inside its jails.”