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Overcrowding in prisons: Inmates at the Mule Creek State Prison in a gymnasium that was modified to house prisoners in Ione, California. [link=""Justin Sullivan/Getty Images[/link]

As the coronavirus rages in prisons, ethical issues of crime and punishment become more compelling

Across the United States, prisons and jails have become hot spotsfor COVID-19. Governments at the state and federal level are being pressed to release inmates before the end of their sentence in order to minimize the spread of the disease.

So far more than 100,000 of them have been infected with the coronavirus, and at least 802 inmates and several correctional officers have died.

New Jersey’s correctional facilities have been hit particularly hard. With 29 deaths for every 100,000 inmates, they have the highest COVID-19-related death rate in the nation.

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Prison chaplains adapt as coronavirus limits their ministry

The worldwide outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) is beginning to touch one of the populations in the United States most vulnerable to disease: the incarcerated.

A growing number of prisons in the US have confirmed cases of COVID-19, and most have suspended visits for inmates.

In the face of such precautions, prison chaplains throughout the country have had to adapt their ministry.

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COVID-19 enters the Canadian prison system

In what everyone–from bureaucrats at Corrections Canada to guards and inmates and their families–in the prison system feared, COVID-19 is now in the door.
A guard at one of the largest prisons in Canada’s largest city has tested positive.

After multiple sources told CBC News about the positive test, the president of the Ontario Public Employees Union, Warren (Smokey) Thomas, confirmed to The Canadian Press news agency that a male worker at the Toronto South Detention Centre is being treated in hospital for the virus.

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Preventing COVID-19 outbreak in prisons: a challenging but essential task for authorities

WHO/Europe has published interim guidance on how to deal with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in prisons and other places of detention, entitled “Preparedness, prevention and control of COVID-19 in prisons and other places of detention”.

The guidance provides useful information to staff and health care providers working in prisons, and to prison authorities. It explains how to prevent and address a potential disease outbreak and stresses important human rights elements that must be respected in the response to COVID-19 in prisons and other places of detention. Access to information and adequate health care provision, including for mental disorders, are essential aspects in preserving human rights in such places.

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Some NSW prisoners could be released early under Covid-19 emergency powers

Australia’s authorities warned that overcrowded jails face ‘uncontrollable’ coronavirus outbreak

Some New South Wales prisoners could be released under new emergency powers announced on Tuesday by the attorney general, Mark Speakman.

The powers will give the corrections minister authority to release or paroleinmates who are nearing the end of their sentences, or considered on case-by-case basis.

Corrections NSW will not have the power to release inmates sentenced for serious crimes like murder, terrorism or sexual offences, and in all cases must “consider the risks to community safety, the protection of domestic violence victims, and the impact on any victim before releasing an inmate.”

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Prisons and jails are vulnerable to COVID-19 outbreaks

[In the week surrounding March 7, 2020] a person incarcerated in King County Jail in downtown Seattle was taken to the hospital after they were suspected of having the new coronavirus. The county says there are no cases currently in the jail, but the new virus remains a huge concern for correctional facilities, particularly in outbreak hotspots like King County. With 85 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, the county is home to the largest known hotspot of cases of the new coronavirus in the United States.

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Are Our Prisons and Jails Ready for COVID-19?

People in prisons and jails are uniquely vulnerable to coronavirus. Officials must act quickly to pull together a plan to ensure the safety of incarcerated people, medical staff, and correctional officers.

Federal Bureau of Prisons COVID-19 Action Plan

Accurate as at 3:09 PM ET, March 13, 2020

(BOP) – The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) manages a nationwide correctional system involving 122 prisons located throughout the country, which are of various security levels and specialized missions. The BOP has been planning for coronavirus (COVID-19) since January 2020. Phase One activities included guidance from the Health Services Division regarding description of the disease, where the infection was occurring and best practices to mitigate transmission. An agency task force was working in conjunction with subject matter experts in the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and reviewing guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO).

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Prisons and custodial settings are part of a comprehensive response to COVID-19

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Prisons are epicentres for infectious diseases because of the higher background prevalence of infection, the higher levels of risk factors for infection, the unavoidable close contact in often overcrowded, poorly ventilated, and unsanitary facilities, and the poor access to health-care services relative to that in community settings.

Colombian prison violence inmates say was sparked by coronavirus fears leaves 23 dead

At least 23 prisoners in Colombia’s capital are dead and 83 are injured after what authorities called a mass breakout attempt and detainees said was a demonstration prompted by coronavirus fears.

Key points:

  • Authorities did not provide a detailed account of how the inmates died
  • Justice Minister Margarita Cabello said no prisoner escaped during the incident
  • She said there were no coronavirus infections recorded at the prison

Justice Minister Margarita Cabello described the events at the La Modelo prison in Bogota as an attempted prison escape, but advocates for inmates said officials had cracked down on prisoners staging a peaceful protest against conditions they feared would exacerbate COVID-19 infections.

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