COVID-19 ALERT: Wende Correctional Facility

Korchinski drove to pick a woman up from prison. Korchinski is the project administrator for Unlocking the Gates Peer Health Mentoring Program, which provides support for formerly incarcerated people during the first 72 hours of their release.

Korchinski had wasted the trip. The woman she had come to collect wasn’t able to leave custody. Due to extra security measures put in place during the global outbreak of Covid-19, she will have to wait a further 14 days before she can travel from prison to a post-correctional treatment facility, just in case she has been exposed to coronavirus while incarcerated.

“It’s hard enough to find somewhere to go after prison any time,” Korchinski says. “Now with Covid-19, it’s way harder.” The woman will have to wait, and hope she doesn’t get sick.

While deferring long-awaited freedom is depressing, the idea of coming down with coronavirus in prison is even worse. “For the inmates I’m working with, there’s a lot of fear,” Korchinski says.

In New Jersey, people detained by ICE have gone on hunger strike, demanding to be released rather than stare down a coronavirus outbreak they see as impending, inevitable. In Italy and Colombia, those fears have turned violent, sparking riots that resulted in dozens of deaths.

It isn’t only those who are incarcerated who have begun to worry about the enormous risk Covid-19 presents to the world’s incarcerated population, who, because of factors like being kept confined in close quarters, are unable to take many of the disease-prevention measures other people are now practicing.

Many advocates and health care experts are calling for mass releases to prevent the potentially lethal outbreaks that may already have begun.