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US jails to begin releasing prisoners to slow spread of COVID19 infections

America's prisons and detention centers are a fertile environment for COVID19 to spread rapidly through a large population of people.

PortandTerminal.com, March 20, 2020

There are now multiple reported cases of COVID19 in America’s jails and detention centers, prompting calls to release low-risk offenders immediately to stop the spread of the virus.

WASHINGTON – American jails are set to release inmates as cases of coronavirus infections are being reported in prisons.

The confirmation of several coronavirus cases in the United States’s expansive prison system this week has drawn concern from health experts and families of inmates alike.

READ: Mass escape from Brazil’s prisons amidst virus outbreak. America next?

The American criminal legal system holds almost 2.3 million people in prisons, jails, detention centers and psychiatric hospitals. Prison reform advocates say those in jail are at higher risk of catching and passing on Covid-19.

If you think a cruise ship is a dangerous place to be during a pandemic, consider America’s jails and prisons. 

Dr. Amanda Klonsky, New York Times, March 16, 2020

Conditions are crowded and unsanitary. People share bathrooms, laundry and eating areas. The toilets in their cells rarely have lids. The toilet tank doubles as the sink for handwashing, tooth brushing and other hygiene. People bunked in the same cell — often as many as four — share these toilets and sinks. In short, a fertile environment for COVID19 to spread rapidly through a large population of people.

New York

Eight more inmates at Rikers were showing COVID-19  symptoms, and at least 40 have been put on a watchlist, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference on Thursday, promising to release vulnerable, “low-risk” inmates as soon as Thursday. 

Other New York prisons, such as Sing Sing, have had inmates test positive for coronavirus and one employee for the state’s corrections department has died from it.

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