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Recommendations for a Metropolitan COVID-19 Response— Special Emphasis Series: Guidance on Protecting Incarcerated Individuals

Cover: Recommendations for a Metropolitan COVID-19 Response— Special Emphasis Series
Gabriel Eber, Steven Huettner, Elena Martin, Jennifer Nuzzo, Leonard Rubenstein, Carolyn Sufrin
Date posted:
April 09, 2020
Publication type:
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
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Currently, there are approximately 2.3 million people detained behind bars in the U.S., including 21,142 people in Maryland state prisons and Baltimore city jails (1,2).

As evidenced by a surge of cases in jails and prisons across the country (for instance, Rikers Island Jail in NYC, Cook County Jail in Chicago, a federal prison in Louisiana, and others) and by prior infectious epidemics spreading in prisons and jails, institutions of incarceration are environments where COVID-19 is likely spread rapidly; furthermore, many incarcerated individuals have chronic health conditions and other risk factors that put them at risk for more severe disease. As of April 9, 57 COVID-19 cases have been reported by the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, a more than threefold increase in 5 days (3). These numbers-- which only reflect those in DPSCS custody (state prisoners and people in the Baltimore City jail system) but not local jails-- can be expected to increase as they have in other jurisdictions.

Ensuring the safety of incarcerated persons and the other individuals who interact with them in these settings is critical to preventing transmission of COVID-19 not only inside the facilities, but also in the wider state community. To ensure their safety, measures need to be taken urgently to identify potentially infected individuals, to reduce the possibilities for transmission in institutions of incarceration, to ensure that infected incarcerated individuals get appropriate treatment, and to facilitate the safe reintegration of individuals from these settings back into the community (4).

The recommendations below call for a concerted, state and local government-supervised strategy across facilities in which incarcerated persons are held across the state of Maryland. This is especially important to have meaningful, centralized oversight with enforcement mechanisms since many institutions contract out their health care to private entities.

This document applies to anyone held in custody at a state prison, county or city jail, or juvenile detention center.



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