The Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice Demand That People in Connecticut Jails and Prisons Be Released Amid COVID-19 Concerns

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 12, 2020                        

Contact: Yan Snead, ysnead@katalcenter.org | 518.360.1534

UPDATED 3/19/2020 2:00 P.M.

 

 

The Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice Demand That People in Connecticut Jails and Prisons Be Released Amid COVID-19 Concerns

 

In response to concerns around COVID-19 being introduced into jails and prisons across Connecticut, the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice issued the following statement:

“On Tuesday, Governor Ned Lamont declared a public health emergency in Connecticut due to the four confirmed cases of COVID-19. Though two of the confirmed cases did not originate in Connecticut, the Governor anticipates that the virus will spread throughout the state. In response to this, Governor Lamont called for both a public health emergency and a civil preparedness emergency. We know that jails and prisons are incredibly susceptible to the pandemic; thousands of people are caged together in small spaces with limited options for quarantine, and a limited selection of sanitary and hygiene products. Many incarcerated people suffer disproportionately from chronic health conditions that make them vulnerable to the virus, especially as they are already receiving substandard medical care.

To slow the spread of COVID-19 both in and out of jails and prisons, and prevent the deaths of incarcerated people, we demand that Connecticut:

  • Immediately release anyone incarcerated in a Connecticut prison or a local jail for a technical parole and probation violation (this includes everyone under community release, transitional supervision, parole, and special parole);
  • Impose a moratorium on incarcerating people for new technical violations until the outbreak is contained;
  • Immediately release incarcerated individuals that are awaiting trial and have not been convicted of a crime;
  • Immediately release incarcerated individuals over the age of 55, because of the increased risk of death from COVID-19;
  • Immediately release medically fragile or people with compromised immune systems (i.e. people with HIV, Hep C, and other chronic conditions) due to their heightened susceptibility to complications and death from the virus;
  • Immediately limit the restrictiveness of Electronic Monitoring and House Arrest to ensure that residents can move about to safely prepare for the pandemic;
  • Immediately stop the arrest and detainment of undocumented people in Connecticut;
  • Immediately extend the time frame for people on the registry to verify their addresses in order to prevent negative consequences or future consequences, including arrest and incarceration.

Given the declining prison population in the state, these types of preventative measures would not be an aberration from current trend of decarceration. People incarcerated for technical parole and probation violations have not committed a new crime; they are instead incarcerated for violating conditions of parole or probation, such as being late for a curfew. For the 3,789 incarcerated people on parole in the state, excluding those who are under home confinement or in a nursing home, allowing them to return to their community would be the safest, and smartest, option amid this pandemic. For the 3,305 incarcerated individuals who are being detained pre-trial in Connecticut, allowing them to return to their communities would also be the safest option to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

In Connecticut, 25% of the people incarcerated in state prisons are over the age of 45. These people are some of the most susceptible populations for contracting COVID-19, and almost never return to prison for new convictions once they are released. Individuals on Electronic Monitoring and house arrest face restrictions on their movement that may inhibit their ability to adequately prepare for the pandemic. Loosening  Electronic Monitoring and house arrest restrictions will help keep people safe.

Detention centers face the same level of susceptibility for a pandemic as prisons and jails, primarily because they are the same institutions under different names. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has routinely provided inadequate health care for undocumented people forced into detention centers. With the spread of COVID-19 throughout the country, it is important to stop the detainment of undocumented Connecticut residents. Though Connecticut does not have an ICE detention center, it is important to safeguard our residents from being placed in a detention center in other states. For that reason, it is necessary to limit the power of ICE in Connecticut.

These measures can be taken without a risk to public safety and would in fact make communities across Connecticut safer, not just during the COVID-19 pandemic, but long-term. Given the Connecticut Department of Corrections’ poor track record when it comes to preventing the spread of dangerous diseases and concerns over staffing shortages of medical professionals, we find it imperative that the state immediately release the aforementioned individuals from jail and prison. We need public health responses to address this public health emergency and getting vulnerable individuals out of jails and prisons is a necessary step to prevent the spread and impact of COVID-19. Releasing people who do not pose a risk to public safety is the smart and humane thing to do both in this moment and going forward.”


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For further details about reducing the impact of COVID-19 for people in jails and prisons and immigration detention centers, see: 


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