As we all know, the outbreak and mortality rates of the Coronavirus in the U.S. has devastated our country. However, the virus is affecting inmates far more, as prisoners often live in overcrowded areas and do not have access to N95 masks or Covid tests. Opportunities for the virus to spread occur due to “the close proximity in which inmates live and congregate, prison transports, where inmates tend to be shackled close together, and a lack of consistent access to cleaning supplies” (Carlisle). When an outbreak does enter the prison, there is little the prisoners can do to escape being infected. From the first reported cases of COVID-19 in our country, scientists have believed that prisoners would be highly affected and susceptible to getting the virus. Experts have referred to prisoners as “superspreaders,” as guards often contract Covid and bring it to outside citizens (Misra).
These Covid-19 outbreaks can all be traced back to the prison employees who bring in the illness from the outside world. Approximately 372,583 prisoners across the United States have been diagnosed with Coronavirus as of February 2021. This number has increased by 2% from the week before, according to a recent article in The Marshall Project. They additionally state that, of these cases, only 297,305 prisoners have survived and fully recovered. Washington State has had a particularly difficult time handling Covid outbreaks in prison; there have been 5,940 reported Covid cases among prisoners in Washington. In many states, “the mortality rate [is] seven times as high as in the general population” due to the severity of the virus and the complicated conditions of the prison system (Misra).
In response to these outbreaks, local governments are trying a variety of approaches to lessen the spread and prevent the deaths of inmates susceptible to the virus. This includes the early release of inmates with chronic illnesses and compromised immune systems. Another tactic being undertaken at several prisons across the country is wastewater monitoring. For example, Ohio correctional facility participates in weekly wastewater monitoring so they can further monitor the number of inmates who have contracted the virus. Lastly, in several states, prisons are being prioritized for the distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine.
We need to spread awareness regarding Covid among prisoners so that more prisons across the country can participate in early releases and other tactics to ensure that the spread of the virus slows. Northwest School students can do this by lowering the spread of Covid-19 through the implementation of CDC tactics and following regulations. By lowering the spread, we are lowering the likelihood of inmates coming in contact with the virus and lowering the risk or an outbreak. Social distancing and wearing masks can prevent Covid from reaching prisons through guards and other workers. Additionally, we can write to government officials and recommend tactics to help slow the spread of the virus in overcrowded prisons. Participating in social distancing, raising awareness, and educating ourselves can help prevent illness for those who are at risk in our country’s prisons and correctional facilities.