Prisons, jails, and detention centers have been called ‘a ticking time bomb’ when it comes to COVID-19. One Ohio prison recently found that more than 70% of its inmates are COVID-19 positive. Social distancing is difficult to enact in these facilities, with some prisons stopping visitation and severely limiting the amount of time inmates can spend in common areas to try to limit the spread of the virus. In response, some inmates and detainees have been released, but this is not consistent across the country.
This panel will explore the unique public health challenge of trying to manage COVID-19 within incarceration facilities. We will discuss recent litigation to release people in response to the pandemic. Lastly, we will consider our ethical obligations to incarcerated individuals during a pandemic as well as challenges of releasing individuals without allowing the virus to spread further.