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Articles by Jack Norton

Prioritizing Jails Over Hospitals Has Made Rural US More Vulnerable to COVID-19

by Jasmine Heiss and Jack Norton, reprinted from Truthout

Infrastructure development is a matter of life and death: This has always been true, and we are now in a clarifying moment.

In the midst of a mounting public health crisis in the United States, state, local and federal governments are struggling to address a lack of hospital capacity, manage the production of personal protective equipment, and even repurpose college campuses and convention centers to respond to the rapid spread of COVID-19. The nation’s smallest communities are meeting the outbreak clinging to a woefully inadequate or virtually nonexistent public health safety net. Rather than hospitals or health clinics, much of the rural U.S. is dotted with jails and prisons; places where vulnerable people live in inescapably close proximity, and the novel coronavirus can be a death sentence.

For decades, every level of government in the United States invested in the creation of a sprawling and decentralized infrastructure of premature death: jails, detention centers and prisons. Since the turn of the millennium, the number of people jailed and sent to prison from major cities has declined. But in the rural U.S., more and more poor and sick people have been locked up, ...