Considering all we know about COVID-19, it’s incredibly obvious that the conditions in American prisons aren’t exactly the best for mitigating the spread of the virus. To address this clear problem, New Jersey has released over 2,200 incarcerated people under a recently passed law.
According to CNN, the law is the first of its kind in the nation, and it allows those incarcerated to acquire emergency credits in the event they are eight months away from release during a public health crisis. More than 2,200 inmates were released on Wednesday, with another 1,167 estimated to be gradually released between Nov. 4 and March 4, 2021, New Jersey Department of Corrections (NJDOC) spokesperson Matt Schuman told CNN.
Those incarcerated for murder, sexual assault, or who have been deemed to be a repetitive sex offender will not be eligible for release under the new law.
“Since March, the population in State correctional facilities has decreased by nearly 3,000 people (16 percent), including more than 1,200 people who were released under Executive Order 124. This dramatic reduction has allowed for critical social distancing as part of the fight against COVID-19,” said Gov. Phil Murphy in a press release.
So far, 52 people have died from COVID-19 while incarcerated in New Jersey prisons. According to data from the NJDOC, more than 3,000 inmates and over 1,000 Corrections employees have already been infected with the virus.
“The spread of COVID-19 in New Jersey’s prisons, and our highest-in-the-nation death rate, has been a matter of public health, a matter of racial justice, and a matter of life and death,” Amol Sinha, executive director of the ACLU of New Jersey, told CNN in a statement.
“The deaths from COVID-19 in prison were preventable — and, fortunately, with the signing of this bill into law, New Jersey has taken steps to prevent more unnecessary deaths. This law serves as a roadmap for the rest of the nation to avoid the devastation we have seen here.”
Hopefully, other states follow suit because COVID-19 has not been kind to our incarcerated population.
Studies have shown that those incarcerated are far more likely to suffer fatal complications from COVID-19, than those in the general population. A study by the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice, found that those incarcerated are two times more likely to contract the virus than those on the outside.
Basically, all the data says that if you’re currently incarcerated, your chances of suffering are greatly increased than if you’re not. Which, considering that prisons and jails often have people living in close proximity with others, wildly varying sanitary conditions, and you know, are prisons, it’s not exactly surprising.
It’s sad that we’re almost a whole year into the pandemic and outside of some mass releases at the start, not much has been done to help the prison population. Just because these people made a mistake doesn’t mean they deserve to suffer.