Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Jails, Prisons, and COVID-19: A Roundup of the Resources

*This page will be updated as things progress; it is certainly not comprehensive, but is intended to help digest a large amount of information, or connect up with more comprehensive sources. If you have resources to share, particularly for or involving punishment scholars, please email me.

It has been a little over a month since a worldwide pandemic was declared and carceral facilities are in the news a lot. I don't know about you, but I'm getting a little overwhelmed and having a difficult time keeping up (and not just because of the amount of things to read). This post is intended to compile resources about COVID-19 as it relates to prisons, jails, and the people who live and work therein. It is written for punishment scholars and others interested in getting a quick overview of public-facing literature on the situation. 

First, the best quick clearinghouse of information 

...on the status of jail/prison releases and other policy changes (like handling co-pays for medical expenses), along with links to other information, is the Prison Policy Initiative. Check their site before any other (including this blog post) as it has a lot of information and links to other pages with lots of information--including Sharon Dolovich's UCLA-based database of confirmed cases and deaths (as well as other information, like releases). This has since been expanded to a full website. Additionally, the Vera Institute of Justice has released a web tool that tracks the size of jail populations in nearly 400 counties, urging citizens to “Use this Data to Hold Your Local Jail Accountable During the Pandemic” by calling for more releases, especially in jurisdictions that have yet to take action. For a more comprehensive list of news articles relating to COVID-19 than I can provide, see the Marshall Project. Margo Schlanger's Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse is also maintaining a list of court cases relating to COVID-19, and this includes jail/prison conditions litigation. Additionally, Sheri-Lynn S. Kurisu is maintaining a google doc with a running list of resources relating to prisons and jails. The Defender Impact Initiative also maintains a running list of news articles about how coronavirus is impacting courts, jails, and prisons.  

As another source, you can also see the New York Times coverage, which includes a section on major US outbreaks. While the specific locations from day to day as new statistics come in, jail and prison facilities are often listed among elder care facilities and other common hot spots. 

Second, some of the best and most consistent coverage 

...of the issue (as well as how COVID-19 affects criminal justice more generally) is coming out of The Appeal. Here are some of their recent pieces, with other references below in the other categories. 
Another excellent steady source has been The Intercept.

Third, a number of scholars have been contributing op-eds 

...bringing their research to bear on the situation. Note that this list is mostly about prisons, punishment, and criminal justice, although it also touches on some issues beyond, and is limited to law and society/(socio)legal scholars. 
Additionally, Alex Luscombe and Alexander McClelland have created a fantastic website tracking how Canadian authorities are Policing the Pandemic, complete with database and white paper. 

There have been some helpful twitter threads (although I'm biased, since I'm including some of mine below) as well as some regular helpful sources of information, including DC-based defense attorney @jameskzeigler and the account @prison_health.
  • Here's a short thread from Nicole Gonzales Van Cleve about how the pandemic-related lockdowns (and not-lockdowns) are affecting courts. 
  • Here's a long thread from me discussing the role of disease in penal reform throughout US history. 
  • Here's another, medium thread from me using examples from the punishment and society literature to illustrate how our thinking about the pandemic trends are hurting our response.
  • Here's yet another, sort of short thread from me discussing releases from prisons in light of the research. 

Fourth, there are a number of stories in mainstream and local news 

...that have been covering these stories since the beginning. While the number of articles has accelerated, pretty much keeping pace with the scale of the pandemic (hence the "overwhelming" comment above), some early stories warned about a disaster waiting happen
Perhaps the first warning sign that tipped us off was the release of prisoners in Iran in early March. On this, see: 
A lot of the stories, both early and more recent, have documented what we (scholars) already knew about the poor hygiene and health care in jails and prisons and that is documented in our research. These new stories show that things are not necessarily getting better and there have been insufficient changes in many facilities. 
  • Buzzfeed "This Man Says Inmates At His Prison Are Getting No Medical Care For COVID-19" (Melissa Segura, April 10)
  • LA Times "L.A. jail inmates say lack of soap and toilet paper heightens coronavirus fear: ‘Like slow torture’" (Alene Tchekmedyian and Matt Hamilton, March 30)
  • ABC News "Shampoo, watery soap to disinfect: Conditions on Rikers Island during COVID-19 unsafe, some inmates say" (Christina Carrega, March 29)
We're also seeing a lot of articles about specific hot spots like Chicago, Louisiana, and a federal prison:
  • The Intercept: "Louisiana's Coronavirus Plan for Prisons Could Create Death Camps" (Alice Speri and Akela Lacy, April 7) 
  • Marshall Project: "I Was at Rikers While Coronavirus Spread. Getting Out Was Just as Surreal." (Donald Kagan as told to Nicole Lewis, April 8)  
  • Washington Post: "Inside the deadliest federal prison, the seeping coronavirus creates fear and danger" (Kimberly Kindy, April 10)
  • ABC News: "3rd Cook County Jail detainee dies after testing positive for COVID-19" (April 12) 
Another trend worth emphasizing is the growing use of incarcerated people as labor sources, often with cruel twists (like creating hygiene supplies they are forbidden from using themselves). These articles are also listed above.

Punishment scholars: let me know if you have written something I can post here! 

Also, if you can't find a good home for an op-ed, or you want a faster turnaround, please email me to post a blog piece on here. 

No comments:

Post a Comment