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New National Report: The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Calls for Large-Scale Releases and Decarceration to Mitigate the Spread of COVID-19
Report Underscores the Urgent Need for Gov. Lamont to Immediately Release People from Jails and Prisons Across the State
Gov. Lamont has Refused to Meet with Individuals and Families Most Impacted by the Risk of COVID-19 Behind Bars
Hartford, CT – Today, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) released a new study that advises policymakers, corrections leaders, and public health officials to ramp up decarceration efforts in order to mitigate the continuing threat of COVID-19. The report amplifies the calls by community groups in Connecticut calling for Governor Lamont to take action to save lives in the face of COVID19.
Lorenzo Jones, Co-Executive Director of the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice, said: “Today’s report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine makes clear that Governor Lamont and the state legislature must take immediate action to decarcerate in the face of COVID19. Lamont has been dragging his feet. He’s done little to account for COVID19 in prisons and jails in our state, leaving people to suffer. Whether it’s callousness or because he’s too busy, Lamont has refused to meet with the family members of people who are incarcerated in our state. Since Lamont won’t’ listen to community groups and family members, maybe he’ll listen to the National Academies of Sciences. It’s time for action now, it’s time to decarcerate in the face of COVID19.”
As of October 19th, the NYTimes reported that more than 242,00 people in US jails and prisons have tested positive for COVID-19, and at least 1,400 incarcerated individuals and correctional officers have died. But in the face of COVID-19, Governor Lamont and the General Assembly have yet to develop a clear, transparent, comprehensive plan to protect the lives of people incarcerated in Connecticut during a pandemic like COVID19.
Public health data show that jails and prisons are incredibly susceptible to the spread of COVID-19. As jails and prisons are congregate living conditions, they are incubators of contagions. Due to close quarters and unsanitary conditions, it has been impossible for people inside to effectively follow the CDC guidelines of physical distancing and regularly washing hands and sanitizing in order to prevent the spread. This puts incarcerated people and facility staff at heightened risk for COVID-19—and jeopardizes community members outside of jails and prisons as well. The Department of Corrections last reported on October 13th that 1624 incarcerated individuals have tested positive for COVID-19 and 7 incarcerated individuals have died. According to The Marshall Project, Connecticut ranks among the worst in the country in terms of COVID-19 cases per capita of incarcerated individuals. With the unprecedented nature of this pandemic, normal constituency plans will not suffice and we must build comprehensive COVID-19 specific plans.
To save lives and keep people safe, Connecticut needs a comprehensive pandemic plan for people incarcerated in jails and prisons. Such a plan must: implement an aggressive plan for emergency release of people from jails and prisons in Connecticut. This must include, but not be limited to, plans to immediately release anyone incarcerated in a New York State prison or a local jail for a technical parole violation, elderly people over the age of 55, medically fragile people or people with compromised immune systems, and people near the end of their sentences. In addition to mass releases, the State must include a plan for continued COVID-19 testing and monitoring for every incarcerated individual and DOCCS staff member in each facility that accounts for delayed symptomology and asymptomatic carriers. Governor Lamont could enact such a plan immediately, but has failed to do so.
Gov. Lamont should use his executive authority to develop and implement a plan before more needless deaths occur. The Governor must also take the time to meet with directly impacted Connecticut residents, in order to create effective public policies that center the most vulnerable and at-risk individuals of our state. In the absence of his leadership, the State Legislature should pass legislation to require the Governor to develop and implement such a plan. Now is the time for action.