Covid-19 in Prisons and Jails

Prisons and jails remain hotspots for Covid-19 transmission. A top medical journal recommends that states prioritize incarcerated persons’ access to lifesaving Covid-19 treatments. (The Lancet)

States have taken different approaches to vaccinating incarcerated individuals, with some placing them on priority lists and others restricting their access. (U.S. News and World Report)

A new report in Massachusetts discloses alarming numbers of prison guards refusing to be vaccinated. Half of Department of Corrections of officials refused vaccination. Largely to blame: a pervasive culture of “toughness” and “hostility to science.” (Dig Boston)

Technology in Prisons

In all federal and state prisons and jails, personal cellphones are classified as contraband. Covid-19 restrictions on in-person visits and with high fees for phone and video calls through official prison portals make communication with family and friends difficult for many incarcerated people. A recent op-ed argues “Just Let People Have Cellphones in Prison.” (Slate)

In many prisons and jails, private communications companies have a monopoly on inmates’ access to the internet and digital communications. They can charge exorbitant fees for products that are feature limited and prone to failure. However, when they work, the products are a vital source of information, access to education, and connection to the outside world. A currently incarcerated person offers a nuanced, personal perspective. (New York Times)

Police violence

An extensive study on police conduct in Chicago used data acquired through public records requests to build four years of time-stamped, geolocated records of the officers’ decisions to stop, arrest, and use force against civilians. Their findings are powerful and revealing: “Relative to white officers, Black and Hispanic officers make far fewer stops and arrests, and they use force less often, especially against Black civilians. These effects are largest in majority-Black areas of Chicago and stem from reduced focus on enforcing low-level offenses, with greatest impact on Black civilians.” (Science)

An ongoing reporting collaboration between the Salt Lake Tribune and PBS’s Frontline has resulted in a database of shootings by police officers in Utah. A recent analysis of this data found that “In 2020, at least 40% of people Utah police shot at were experiencing a mental health event.” (Frontline)