Friday, October 02, 2020

States keep prisoners in county jails to prevent covid-19 outbreaks in prisons, which causes problems in localities

Some states have slowed or halted the transfer of people from county jails to state prisons in an effort to prevent spread of the coronavirus in prisons. Not only has that resulted in overcrowding in county jails, which can make the virus spread faster among detainees, but it stretches the resources of the jails, Alex Sakariassen reports for Kaiser Health News.

Montana is one state that implemented such a policy for a time. It has the second-lowest prison infection rate in the nation. Colorado, California, Texas, and New Jersey also suspended inmate intakes from county jails this spring, Sakariassen reports, "But it’s also shifted the problem. Space was already a rare commodity in these local jails, and some sheriffs see the halting of transfers as giving the prisons room to improve the health and safety of their inmates at the expense of those in jail, who often haven’t been convicted."

Sakariassen adds, "Unlike convicted offenders in state prisons, most jail inmates are only accused of a crime. They include a disproportionately high number of poor people who cannot afford to post bail to secure their release before trial or the resolution of their cases. If they do post bail or are released after spending time in a jail with a covid outbreak, they risk bringing the disease home with them."

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