Pass policies to protect incarcerated populations.

Experts warn that COVID-19 could infect up to 40 - 70 percent of the world’s adult population.

2.3 million people are incarcerated in the U.S and there are 8,453 overcrowded prisons and jails across the country. 

The entire world is bracing against the continued spread of COVID-19. The more than 2.3 million people incarcerated in this country, and correctional staff, make up one of the populations most vulnerable to infection.

Prisons and jails are breeding grounds for communicable diseases that can spread rapidly throughout the facility and into the community as guards and volunteers circle in and out of prisons. 

Dream Corps JUSTICE joins many organizations across the country in urging every state to support recommendations and reforms that keep everyone safe against the coronavirus by implementing policies that ensure the safety, health, and overall wellbeing of incarcerated individuals – particularly during a pandemic.

Add your name in support of recommendations and reforms that keep everyone safe during this pandemic.

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Dear lawmaker: as the COVID-19 crisis continues, I urge you to promote policies in support of people who are incarcerated in two separate areas: preventing a prison pandemic and ensuring dignity for people incarcerated.


Policies to Prevent a Prison Pandemic 
To increase the flow of information regarding COVID-19 inside prisons and jails, prevent additional cases, and treat those who are already impacted, the federal government should support policies which:

  • Provide key health information addressing the following topics via prison television stations, flyers, wall posters, and local radio stations:
    • Information on COVID-19: what it is, how it is transmitted, symptoms, risk groups, and guidance for minimizing risk.
    • Instructions on what to do if a person is feeling ill, and what actions will be taken by the institution (including testing; where people will be housed; restrictions, etc.)
  • Provide protective equipment and training to all who participate in the preparation or distribution of food or other goods, like laundry and supplies.
  • Provide sanitizing wipes at landline phone stations to reduce virus transmission, and ensure regular cleanings of phones every 72 hours.
  • Provide 30-day supplies of medications to reduce contact and staff workload.
  • Provide low density daily access to the yard for anyone who is not ill.
  • Provide access to showers at least every 48 hours, and conduct regular cleanings at least every 72 hours.
  • House those who are deemed medically high risk in single cells only.
  • Ensure early release prioritization for incarcerated communities most vulnerable to infection (the elderly and immunocompromised persons). 
  • Ensure the increased usage of reentry housing and pretrial diversion schemes so as to decrease the number of incarcerated persons who could be infected. 
  • Instruct medical staff and the warden of each facility to share facility-specific updates daily to a designated inmate council comprised of representatives from each unit or cell block, and to permit the inmate representatives to debrief their respective unit or cell block following each daily update. This information should also be made available to people with limited or no English proficiency, to those who are non-readers, or who have disabilities. 
  • Require that a medical professional accompanies staff during daily count times, and has authority to take necessary medical actions regarding an at-risk or infected person. 

Ensuring Dignity for Incarcerated People
COVID-19 is drastically impacting the way in which incarcerated people are being treated on a daily basis, from limiting the ability of incarcerated persons to communicate with their families, to limitations on participation in necessary anti-recidivism programming. The federal government should support policies which:

  • Ensure access to telephone communication for incarcerated persons. If feasible, such communication should be at no cost for those that are incarcerated during this crisis. 
  • Provide a sufficient number of stamps for communication by mail. 
  • Where feasible, ensure regular access to video conferencing at little to no cost. 
  • Request data from the Bureau of Prisons regarding the number of people infected, the treatments provided, medical supplies distributed, and the impact on quality of life of those incarcerated related to policy changes regarding family visitation and other areas.
  • Guarantee minimum wage for prison labor to help during the crisis (including the production of health products to be used by both the government and private companies).
  • Ensure the continuation of education, job training, and other programs which lead to the accrual of Earned Time Credits through the distribution of written materials and the utilization of digital teaching technologies to maintain rehabilitation and mental health.
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