Jails and Prisons Have Become the Biggest Coronavirus Hotspots in the Country: 8 of the Top 10 Largest COVID-19 Outbreaks in U.S. – Ohio Prisons Represent Top Two Outbreaks in Nation
Crime victims express support for safely reducing incarceration through responsible releases
April 27, 2020 – The Alliance for Safety and Justice released a fact sheet highlighting new data revealing the dramatic spread of COVID-19 throughout jails and prisons across the country, as well as solutions to stem its proliferation. According to recent data compiled by The New York Times, eight of the nation’s top 10 largest Coronavirus outbreaks are jails or prisons, with two Ohio prisons taking the top two spots. The Marshall Project also released data today showing that infections in prisons quadrupled last week, after more than doubling each previous week.
“With the pandemic intensifying in prisons and jails across the country at alarming rates, urgent action is needed to stop the preventable spread of Coronavirus,” said Robert Rooks, CEO of Alliance for Safety and Justice (ASJ). “It is essential to the health of communities throughout the U.S. that we safely reduce incarceration in these facilities that have proven to be fuel for the spread of illness. If action is not taken to release people who are at greatest risk, pose no risk to public safety, or can be better served elsewhere, needless deaths will occur inside correctional facilities and their surrounding communities.”
According to The Marshall Project, there are approximately 9,500 infections among people detained and 3,950 infections among staff in prisons. This is likely an undercount due to lack of information on testing inside prisons, and the lack of reporting from many states and the Federal Bureau of Prisons (major outbreaks have already occurred in its facilities). In Ohio’s Marion state prison, which is the nation’s largest outbreak with over 2,100 infections, over 80% of those detained and nearly half of staff have tested positive for COVID-19. The outbreak there has also spread into the surrounding community. Ohio’s Pickaway Correctional Institution is the country’s second largest outbreak of Coronavirus with over 1,600 positive cases.
Over the past several weeks, crime victims from across the country have expressed support for safely reducing incarceration. Their efforts culminated in a #SurvivorsSpeak virtual event this past weekend, hosted by Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, where thousands of crime survivors participated in the largest annual gathering of crime victims in the nation.
Aswad Thomas, Managing Director for Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice (CSSJ), a network of over 42,000 crime victims across the nation, said: “As crime victims from communities most harmed by violence, we want solutions that stop the cycle of crime and support our needs. We support safely reducing incarceration because a greater priority needs to be placed on prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and trauma recovery. Over-incarceration has failed to make us safer and diverted critical investments that could promote healthy communities. Instead, wasteful prison spending monopolized attention and resources, while survivors needs went unmet, safety was undermined, and now everyone is endangered by prisons spreading COVID-19.”
Alliance for Safety and Justice surveys of crime victims both nationally and in many states have found that a majority of victims prefer shorter prison sentences and instead, more spending on crime prevention to longer prison sentences. Crime survivors consistently express support for prioritizing prevention, rehabilitation and treatment. A growing body of research routinely shows that crime victims do not receive the help they need in the aftermath of an incident, despite steadily increased spending in the criminal justice system.
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