Time bomb…

March 29, 2020

(Ed note:  The warnings about prisons as a time bomb have surfaced for some time already in the life of Covid-19.  Can anyone provide any analysis as to why the legal system is so inflexible that even at this stage there is only muted and sporadic response from politicians and justice people around getting people out of the jails? Where or with whom does the buck stop?  What is the process?)
 VICE – Justin Ling
Canada’s Prisons Are a Coronavirus Time Bomb, Say Guards and Inmates – Justin Trudeau has brushed aside calls to release some non-violent offenders in order to protect their health.

While many US states have already begun the release of the elderly and chronically ill as well as those on remand and on short sentence, there seems a determined resistance to ignore the vulnerability of those persons in our Canadian prisons.  There is no shortage of those protesting the hesitancy but there is also no response from governments, almost as though these persons are throw-away.  There are also contradictory versions of preventative measures such as the distribution to inmates of soap and hand sanitizer.  So far, it appears that Corrections Canada have simply limited visiting and denied temporary absences.   https://www.vice.com/en_ca/article/jge4yy/canadas-prisons-are-a-coronavirus-time-bomb-say-guards-and-inmates  Related article: CBC News – The Canadian Press – Prison in Drumheller locked down, two inmates tested for COVID-19 https://www.cbc.ca/amp/1.5513529?__vfz=medium%3Dsharebar&__twitter_impression=true      Related article: National Post – Teresa Wright, Canadian Press  Leaders detail concerns about COVID-19 impacts on Indigenous populations   https://nationalpost.com/pmn/news-pmn/canada-news-pmn/leaders-detail-concerns-about-covid-19-impacts-on-indigenous-populations      Related article: WDSU – Orleans Criminal Court judges order release of certain inmates amid coronavirus crisis   https://www.wdsu.com/article/orleans-criminal-court-judges-order-release-of-certain-inmates-amid-coronavirus-crisis/31943462   Related article: National Newswatch – Daniela Germano, Canadian Press   ‘Do something now:’ Inmate’s wife calls for release of non-violent offenders   https://www.nationalnewswatch.com/2020/03/29/do-something-now-inmates-wife-calls-for-release-of-non-violent-offenders/#.XoDyoXJ7k2x

 Reuters (US) – Ned Parker, Linda So, Brad Heath, Grant Smith
Spread of coronavirus accelerates in U.S. jails and prisons

The link offers some frightening stats on the current status of N.Y. City’s 7,000 inmates on Riker’s Island, a prison whose closing has already been announced.  Curiously, while inmates seek in vain for personal protection items like masks and gloves, prison staff across the city is approaching already the number of the inmates who are infected: 132 inmates and 104 staff persons.  The ratio seems to hold over other jails and prisons as well:  “Since March 22, jails have reported 226 inmates and 131 staff with confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to a Reuters survey of cities and counties that run America’s 20 largest jails.”  https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-usa-inmates-insigh/spread-of-coronavirus-accelerates-in-u-s-jails-and-prisons-idUSKBN21F0TM   Related article: Newser Editors and News Services (US) –  https://amp.newser.com/story/288792/next-possible-epicenter-for-virus-americas-prisons.html?__twitter_impression=true   Related article: KERA News Radio (Texas Standard) – Disease Spread In Jail Is Disease Spread In The Community   https://www.keranews.org/post/disease-spread-jail-disease-spread-community

Centre for Crime and Justice Studies (UK) – Richard Garside
Towards a lasting legacy for prisons from the coronavirus crisis

The link provides an insight of what is happening in the UK prisons around coronavirus.  Among the 90,000 prisoners across the UK, two elderly inmates have already died.  Garside and his organization are suggesting that nothing would demonstrate the silliness of short prison sentences more than an invasion of the prisons by the virus.  “The wasteful churn short prison sentences cause is well-recognised, the current context should give fresh urgency to ending it. Our short prison sentencing project will be seeking to influence just that, both making the case for immediate reform as well as seeking to secure the system changes necessary over the longer term.”  https://www.crimeandjustice.org.uk/resources/towards-lasting-legacy-prisons-coronavirus-crisis

Human Rights Watch –
Human Rights Dimensions of COVID-19 Response

“International human rights law guarantees everyone the right to the highest attainable standard of health and obligates governments to take steps to prevent threats to public health and to provide medical care to those who need it. Human rights law also recognizes that in the context of serious public health threats and public emergencies threatening the life of the nation, restrictions on some rights can be justified when they have a legal basis, are strictly necessary, based on scientific evidence and neither arbitrary nor discriminatory in application, of limited duration, respectful of human dignity, subject to review, and proportionate to achieve the objective.”    https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/03/19/human-rights-dimensions-covid-19-response  Related article: CBC News – Perlita Stroh   COVID-19 isolation measures increase risk for those in abusive relationships   https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/covid-isolation-risks-abusive-relationships-1.5510551   Related article: The Guardian (Scotland desk, UK) – Coronavirus: Scotland may release prisoners close to end of sentences   https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/mar/28/coronavirus-scotland-may-release-prisoners-close-to-end-of-sentences