To move towards the abolition of jails, prisons, and detention centers and to build in their stead just and equitable systems that advance public health and well-being, APHA urges federal, state, tribal, territorial, and municipal governments and agencies to:
- Immediately and urgently reduce the number of people incarcerated in jails, prisons, and detention centers, regardless of conviction, especially in light of pressing concerns related to COVID-19 transmission;
- Immediately and urgently develop, implement, and support existing community-based programming interventions, including by using emergency funding, to address the medical and social needs of people who have been harmed by the criminal legal system, including those transitioning from incarceration, particularly those being released in response to COVID-19;
- Re-allocate funding from the construction of new jails and prisons to the societal determinants of health, including affordable, quality, and accessible housing, healthcare, employment, education, and transportation;
- Remove policies and practices that restrict access to stable employment and housing for formerly incarcerated people, including immediately investing in housing for quarantine purposes after release from carceral settings;
- Meet patient rights requirements to be in the least restrictive environment for care, by redirecting funding and referrals from jails, prisons, and involuntary and/or court-mandated inpatient psychiatric institutions to inclusive, community-based living and support programs for people with mental illness and substance use disorder;
- End the practice of cash bail and pretrial incarceration;
- Develop, implement, and support non-carceral measures to ensure accountability, safety, and well-being (e.g., programs based in restorative and transformative justice);
- Decriminalize activities shaped by the experience of marginalization, like substance use and possession, houselessness, and sex work;
- Restore voting rights for all formerly or currently incarcerated people to ensure their basic democratic right to participate in elections.
Further, APHA urges that Congress, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to:
- Fund research on the effectiveness of alternatives to incarceration (e.g. transformative justice);
- Fund research on policy determinants of exposure to the carceral system, with a particular focus on policies that disproportionately target marginalized communities;
- Put forth a set of recommendations that will decrease the population within carceral settings based on the principles of human rights and health justice.
Lastly, APHA calls on state and local health departments to:
- Provide accurate, timely, and publicly available data on incarcerated and released populations at the state and facility-level, as well as COVID-19 testing, positive and resolved cases, and mortality.
- Advocate for and support decarceration and defunding of all carceral facilities and systems