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Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Prisons across the United States and internationally are putting into place early release programs for inmates due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Prison officials, government officials, and health department officials believe that early release answers the need to reduce prison overcrowding spurring immense spread of the COVID-19 virus. The spread of COVID-19 within jails and prisons are on the increase due to overcrowding. Well-behaved inmates with chronic health issues, and those who have complex medical diagnosis places them at a higher risk for contracting COVID-19 with complications including death.

These high-risk inmates are seeing their sentences reduced so early discharge can take place. Instituting an early release program helps to decrease overcrowding, thus decreasing the spread of COVID-19 because social distending is better utilized with less inmates. There are a few states and foreign countries that are initiating early release programs. However, there are not enough at this time. Many prisons are taking a second look at long-term inmates and what would be more beneficial to them, a transfer, or an early discharge. There are other issues factoring into thousands of early release inmates at high risk for contracting COVID-19 in prisons and jails, such as, 

  • Prisons are understaffed due to employees becoming ill with the COVID-19 Virus.

  • Decrease or elimination of programs

  • Isolation

  • Late meals due to being understaffed

  • Decrease in overall physical and mental health

  • Impossible social distending

Early release programs affect the following.

  • Releases from jails

  • Releases from prisons

  • Reduced jail admissions

  • Reduced paroles and probation

  • Reduced prison check-ins

  • Reduced or elimination of medical co-pays

  • Elimination or decrease in necessary prison reforms

  • Decreased time outside

  • Elimination of medical co-pays

  • Reducing visitors for inmates but increasing phone call and video contact while eliminating the fees attached

  • Reduced face to face and unnecessary parole check-ins, and probation visits to cut the risks of contracting COVID-19. 

  • Suspension of probation and parole fees