Does Early Prisoner Release Make us Healthier?

Recently, in response to the Covid-19 novel coronavirus, cities across America have taken steps to reduce the number of inmates housed within the various detention facilites.

Many have argued that due to close proximity, prisoners are not able to “social distance” thus increasing the likelihood of infection.

However, finding a definitive answer to the question, ”is the coronavirus infection rate higher in the detention facilities versus the general population?”, has been difficult.

Detention facilities, including Clark County, maintain “Contagious Disease Protocols” to limit the spread of disease, (e.g. HIV, Hepatitis) by isolating prisoners with contagious diseases as part of the established health protocols.

These protocols dictate when and how a prisoner will be quarantined to protect the general jail population.

The release of some prisoners into the general public must be accomplished by balancing the desire to have a safer jail and having safer prisoners.

A safer jail will be one where prisoners and staff practice healthy hygiene while utilizing Contagious Disease Protocols.

Reportedly, the early release of prisoners must consider the prisoners non-violent status, length of time left on a prisoners sentence, job status, and whether a prisoner has a home to go to.

Unintended consequences will occur if a prisoner is released to an already crowded home, increasing the likelihood of Covid transmission, or no job opportunity, increasing the risk of the prisoner committing crime to survive. Other consequences may also subject the prisoner to being houseless, such unsanitary conditions therefore increasing the spread of Covid.

If these concerns cannot be satisfied prisoners should not be released into the community for the safety of the community, their families and the prisoner.

Lastly, New York City, under the administration of Mayor Bill DeBlasio, recently released at least 900 “non-violent offenders” lowering their jail population to World War II levels.

Realizing a nationwide recidivism rate of 68% it should not have been unexpected that several, at least 50 by last count, have committed crimes; many of them violent in nature.

I agree with Michael Skelly, spokesman for the Correction Officer Benevolent Association (New York), when he said “you don’t solve a Public Health crisis by starting Public Safety issues”.

My priority is the safety of the good citizens of Clark County. I will always err on the side of common sense and balanced data driven priorities.

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