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Articles by Emily Widra

How Prepared Are State Prison Systems for a Viral Pandemic?

by Emily Widra and Peter Wagner, originally published April 10, 2020 at the Prison Policy Initiative website

Since the Prison Policy Initiative’s first coronavirus briefing at the beginning of March, the organization has been tracking how federal, state, and local officials have responded to the threat of COVID-19 in the criminal justice system. A number of jurisdictions have taken quick and laudable actions to protect the most vulnerable justice-involved people, including reducing the number of arrests and bookings, releasing people held pretrial, reducing admissions to state prisons, and suspending medical copays in most states. This article assessing the state of preparation in the state prison systems for the pandemic was released on April 10. Some of the details in particular states will have changed by the time it appears in print, but the overall thrust that state prison systems wasted critical time will remain true–Editor.

Many local jails and pretrial systems are taking action to reduce their populations in advance of the COVID-19 pandemic, but state prison systems are not, raising the question: Are state prisons prepared to handle a pandemic within their walls? We set out to survey prison systems on the capacity of their health facilities, their plansfor any necessary ...