By: Nyoko Brown
In the efforts to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, those experiencing homelessness are severely neglected. The article entitled Prisons: Amplifiers of the COVID-19 Pandemic Hiding in Plain Sight provides insight into just how detrimental mass incarceration in America is to lessening the spread of the pandemic.
The article defines “custodial settings” as involuntary institutions such as prisons, jails, juvenile detentions, and immigrant detention facilities. Those who are incarcerated are subjected to overcrowding, inadequate ventilation, insufficient hygiene, and other conditions that increase the risk of spreading COVID-19. Incarceration may also weaken one’s immune system due to the added stress and inadequate sleep inmates may experience, risking more severe infection.
People experiencing homelessness have increased rates of incarceration due to the high number of law enforcement interactions they are subjected to. Due to law enforcement targeting unhoused individuals, they frequently are forced to move between custodial and community settings. This puts a further strain on local community hospitals that are caring for serious cases of COVID-19. This article urges community leaders to fight for incarcerated individuals' rights to safe and livable conditions by pushing for stronger and more effective infection control in custodial settings.
Barnert, Elizabeth, et al. “Prisons: Amplifiers of the COVID-19 Pandemic Hiding in Plain Sight,” American Journal of Public Health, 10 June 2020, https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/full/10.2105/AJPH.2020.305713.