OUR LEADERS HAVE THE POWER TO RELEASE PEOPLE IN PRISON. NOW THEY MUST USE IT.
State governors and the president have the authority to grant commutations and reprieves to people in prison across the country as COVID-19 spreads.
As our political leaders scramble to address one of the worst health crises the country has ever experienced, it is imperative that they prioritize the release of some of the country’s most vulnerable people from prisons, where containing the spread of COVID-19 is simply not feasible.
Many people in prison are over the age of 60 and have chronic medical conditions such as lung disease, heart disease, and diabetes. Coronavirus is more likely to be devastating, even deadly, for these people, but correctional facilities do not give them the option of avoiding close contact, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has prescribed in order to contain the virus’s spread. Most U.S. detention facilities force people to bunk with one or two others, and some require them to sleep and eat in large communal areas. Social distancing in these environments is impossible. Even basic hygiene is a luxury: Many people in prison have no access to hand sanitizer and struggle to pay for soap.