May 13, 2021

Addressing the Public Health Crisis of U.S. Carceral Facilities: An Integrated and Equitable Approach

#justice #democracy #policy #incarceration 

The SARS-CoV-2 virus and resultant coronavirus disease (COVID19) have caused unprecedented suffering among incarcerated individuals since the beginning of the pandemic. While many believe that widespread vaccination in carceral settings will solve the problem, this perspective underestimates the severity of the situation and mischaracterizes its driver. Vaccines are a necessary but insufficient component to what should be comprehensive, immediate, and ethical response to COVID-19 in carceral settings across the United States.

A number of advocates and experts stress that following structural changes are needed to address the above injustices. These structural changes include:

Community-Based Harm Reduction Strategies

  • De-militarize policing
  • Make de-escalation a standard element of police protocol
  • Shift budget from policing to community health and social services

Reorientation of State, Prosecutorial, and Carceral Positioning

  • Transfer power and resources to communities who are already providing social supports through initiatives like credible messenger programs and kinship reentry
  • Incorporation of those directly impacted by the carceral system into a robust social safety net
  • No pre-trial detention
  • No cash bail
  • End mandatory minimums
  • Create system of alternatives to incarceration

Community-Carceral Health Principles

  • Vaccine distribution accompanied by decarceration
  • De-siloing corrections from public health infrastructure, giving public health departments a larger role in accountability