Center on Sentencing and Corrections

Coronavirus Guidance- Crisis Behind Bars

Coronavirus Guidance- Crisis Behind Bars

Vera Institute of Justice. We must urgently do more to address COVID-19 behind bars and avoid mass infection and death: Guidance for Attorney General Barr, governors, sheriffs, and corrections administrators. New York: Vera Institute of Justice, 2020.

Prisons and jails have had significant outbreaks of COVID-19, putting thousands of lives at risk. As part of efforts to protect people most at risk of contracting COVID-19, the Vera Institute of Justice (Vera) issued this guidance brief providing leaders at all levels of federal, state, and local government with recommendations to address the crisis. Vera urges leaders to immediately address the COVID-19 crisis behind bars by taking the following steps:

  1. Reduce the number of people behind bars (i.e., decarceration).
  2. Protect the people who remain incarcerated through policy and practice that maintains the dignity and health of incarcerated people.
  3. Respond effectively to COVID-19 outbreaks behind bars with quality quarantine, medical isolation, and treatment units within facilities—without resorting to solitary confinement.

 The guidance highlights the importance of creating quarantine and medical isolation units with conditions that significantly differ from solitary confinement. These units should provide the same level of access to programs, services, and outside communications as in the general population, and provide frequent physical and mental health services. Agencies should also communicate to staff and incarcerated people about the non-punitive conditions in these units.

Click here to view the guidance.

Keywords: COVID, novel, coronavirus, conditions, operations, public health, healthcare, decarcerate, releases.