|As enclosed and locked facilities, prisons, jails, and detention centers are uniquely positioned as places ripe for the rapid spread of diseases. As the Health Affairs journal notes, “Prisons push people into the path of pandemics.” They are by nature unsafe and unhealthy institutions; with meager access to healthcare at best, and routine negligence and violence as the norm, imprisoned people will likely be among the hardest hit by COVID-19.
The Prison Policy Initiative, among other organizations, have laid out some key steps and policy recommendations to address the threat of COVID-19 among prisoners, which include releasing elderly prisoners and those with medical needs, reducing the number of people coming into jails, and stopping the practice of re-arresting and imprisoning people for technical probation and parole violations. These are often central demands in our campaigns, as they are practical and liberatory steps to decarceration. We fully support these recommendations, and believe that we must go further. For instance, Iran has released 70,000 prisoners (which accounts for around 30% of its entire prison population) to mitigate the spread of the disease in prisons, and there are still demands for more to be released.