As the country begins implementing severe measures to delay the spread of the new coronavirus, The Sentencing Project recognizes that U.S. prisons and jails face a public health catastrophe due to unsanitary and overcrowded conditions. Medical and health experts have been calling for reductions in incarceration levels, and criminal justice advocates have been echoing this demand.

Josiah Rich, a Brown University epidemiologist and a leading expert on health care in prisons, says we must prioritize reducing the number of incarcerated people to minimize the threat of coronavirus in prisons and jails. 

The Guardian

The Sentencing Project has been working to inform the public, elected officials, and criminal justice leaders that calls for reducing incarceration levels are in line with public safety goals. Among the individuals appropriate for release consideration are people housed in pre-trial detention in jails and rehabilitated individuals in prisons, including those serving long sentences who have aged out of crime. Elderly incarcerated people often pose little public safety risk but disproportionately suffer from chronic medical conditions and thus are at the highest risk of dying from COVID-19.

Protecting incarcerated people during a pandemic by expediting releases would reduce the burden on prison staff of caring for the very ill and reduce demand for limited hospital resources which are shared with the broader public. Time is of the essence to avert a public health catastrophe in the United States’ prisons and jails.

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The Sentencing Project
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The Sentencing Project works for a fair and effective U.S. justice system by promoting reforms in sentencing policy, addressing unjust racial disparities and practices, and advocating for alternatives to incarceration.

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