criminal justice, Healthcare, Social Problems

‘Jails Are Petri Dishes’: Inmates Freed as the Virus Spreads Behind Bars.

Some jails are releasing people to stem outbreaks, but critics say it is not happening quickly enough to save lives and resources.

By Timothy Williams, Benjamin Weiser and William K. Rashbaum March 30, 2020

The coronavirus is spreading quickly in America’s jails and prisons, where social distancing is impossible and sanitizer is widely banned, prompting authorities across the country to release thousands of inmates in recent weeks to try to slow the infection, save lives and preserve medical resources.

Hundreds of Covid-19 diagnoses have been confirmed at local, state and federal correctional facilities — almost certainly an undercount, given a lack of testing and the virus’s rapid spread — leading to hunger strikes in immigrant detention centers and demands for more protection from prison employee unions.

A week ago, the Cook County jail in Chicago had two diagnoses; by Sunday, 101 inmates and a dozen employees had tested positive for the virus. A nearby Illinois state prison reported a coronavirus-related death on Monday, and Michigan prisons had 78 positive tests. The Rikers Island jail complex in New York City had 167 confirmed cases among inmates by Monday. And at least 38 inmates and employees in the federal prison system have the virus, with one prisoner dead in Louisiana.

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criminal justice, Healthcare, Social Problems

Chicago’s Jail Is Top U.S. Hot Spot as Virus Spreads Behind Bars At least 1,324 confirmed coronavirus cases are tied to prisons and jails across the United States, according to data tracked by The Times, including at least 32 deaths. Prisoners hung signs pleading for help in a window of the Cook County jail on Tuesday.

By Timothy Williams and Danielle Ivory April 8, 2020

It started small. On March 23, two inmates in the sprawling Cook County jail, one of the nation’s largest, were placed in isolation cells after testing positive for the coronavirus. In a little over two weeks, the virus exploded behind bars, infecting more than 350 people. The jail in Chicago is now the nation’s largest-known source of coronavirus infections, according to data compiled by The New York Times, with more confirmed cases than the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt, a nursing home in Kirkland, Wash., or the cluster centered on New Rochelle, N.Y.

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