Rethinking Incarceration During a Global Pandemic
Throughout Module 4, among other corrections related topics, you’ve read about community corrections, life inside prison, and reentry. For this assignment, you will be asked to take the information from your text, additional readings, and documentaries to think about the impact of COVID-19 on incarcerating individuals in jail and in prison. Specifically, if you were in a position to develop policy, how would you determine who should be released from a jail or prison facility to limit the exposure of inmates, the staff, and the public to COVID-19. The assignment asks you to address specific questions about the implications of your decisions.
Although the assigned reading and viewing materials provide the majority of information that you need to understand what should be considered when addressing the questions, you will also need to read and identify additional materials that discuss the impact of COVID-19 on correctional facilities (e.g. news articles, government reports). At the end of this prompt, I have listed more than a dozen examples of additional reading materials that will help you understand the issue. You can use these and/or search for your own. Importantly, you need to cite the information (both assigned in this module and resources you identify) in-text and in a bibliography using APA format.
Finally, as far as instructions, I am not giving a page limit. However, the answers to your questions can be succinct and I recommend, if you are comfortable with this format, just copying and pasting the questions into a Word document and fill in the answers below each question to make sure you address all questions asked. I also want to see direct and cited connections to the assigned and additional readings. Although I am asking for your opinion, that opinion should be backed-up by facts and examples of what others have done. It would not be beneficial to your grade for me to read your responses and question whether you had read or viewed the materials assigned for this module or read more about how correctional agencies are adapting to deal with the pandemic.
Below are the questions I want you to answer. As always, feel free to use the Ask the Instructor or Student Questions for Module 4: Corrections discussion boards if you have questions or comments about the assignment.
- Imagine you are in charge of a jail or prison’s policies for responding to COVID-19. First, as jails and prisons have different purposes, you will need to decide which type of facility you are in charge of. So, are you answering the questions for a jail or a prison? Depending on which type of facility you choose, keep in mind this will have an impact on your plan. For example, if you decide you are in responsible for the policy of a jail, you would need to worry about pre-trial inmates (as these individuals are typically housed in jails).
- As part of the policy development, you are told that you must identify who within your jail/prison can be immediately released to lower the inmate population. Please identify who you would recommend for immediately release. Although not limited to these characteristics, some criteria could revolve around crime type, age, health status, community connections.
- After the initial release, would you extend this option to others if there was an outbreak in your facility? If so, who might be eligible for a second round of releases from your facility?
- Who would not be eligible for release, not matter how severe the pandemic became? Please explain what, specifically, about this group would prevent them from ever being released.
- What increased risks, if any, would the general public incur specific to the populations you would release (please separate, if it makes sense, these risks between the first and second groups you release)?
- What increased risks, if any, would those you released incur once they reenter the community?
- What types of community corrections, if any, would you require of those you released (e.g. GPS monitoring, house arrest, program participation)? Would this differ based on the individual’s criminal history, charges against them, or other factors? Please give at least three examples.
- What types of services would you want to make sure the released would have access to in the community? Please give at least three examples of services you would want to provide and to what specific subset of the population being released.
- Would you recommend that releasing these inmates (and not incarcerating similarly situated inmates while the pandemic was occurring) be temporary or a permanent policy change for your jurisdiction? Please justify your answer.
- Finally, what data would you want to collect and evaluate while these new policies were in effect to make sure that the release of these individuals from jail/prison did not increase the risk to public safety nor the risk to those who were released? Please give at least three examples.
Examples of Additional Resources on COVID-19 & Incarceration (Listed in No Particular Order)
https://www.capradio.org/articles/2020/08/12/californias-post-prison-chaos-thousands-released-early-including-many-with-coronavirus/ (Links to an external site.)
https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/inside-the-covid-unit-at-the-worlds-largest-womens-prison (Links to an external site.)
https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/thousands-sick-federal-prisoners-sought-release-covid-19-spread-nearly-n1242193 (Links to an external site.)
https://www.postcrescent.com/story/news/2020/10/20/i-feel-completely-helpless-calls-release-certain-state-prisoners-grow-louder-virus-spreads-behind-ba/5935506002/ (Links to an external site.)
https://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2020/10/20/court-orders-release-transfer-1700-san-quentin-prison-inmates-covid-outbreak/ (Links to an external site.)
https://www.nj.com/news/2020/10/murphy-signs-bill-to-release-thousands-of-nj-prisoners-early-beginning-the-day-after-election-day.html (Links to an external site.)
https://www.nj.com/news/2020/10/hundreds-of-nj-prisoners-expected-to-be-released-early-are-at-risk-of-homelessness-records-show.html (Links to an external site.)
https://www.brookings.edu/events/the-impact-of-covid-19-on-prisons/ (Links to an external site.)
https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/failing_grades.html (Links to an external site.)
https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/09/pandemic-inspires-new-push-shrink-jails-and-prisons (Links to an external site.)
https://www.themarshallproject.org/2020/05/01/a-state-by-state-look-at-coronavirus-in-prisons (Links to an external site.)
https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2020/07/01/how-covid-19-in-jails-and-prisons-threatens-nearby-communities (Links to an external site.)
https://www.cato.org/blog/decarceration-face-pandemic (Links to an external site.)
https://www.buckscountycouriertimes.com/story/news/state/2020/08/18/covid-19-pennsylvania-prison-inmates-corrections-jails/3363510001/ (Links to an external site.)
https://www.governor.pa.gov/newsroom/wolf-administration-participates-in-national-project-to-review-safe-inmate-population-reduction-during-covid-19/ (Links to an external site.)