FILE – In a June 20, 2014, file photo, the Rikers Island jail complex stands in New York with the Manhattan skyline in the background. The nation’s jails and prisons are on high alert about the prospect of the new coronavirus spreading through their vast inmate populations. PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The nation’s jails and prisons are on high alert, stepping up inmate screenings, sanitizing jail cells and urging lawyers to scale back in-person visits to prevent the new coronavirus from spreading through their vast inmate populations.
There have been no reports of COVID-19 inside U.S. jails or prisons. But more people are incarcerated per capita here than in any other country in the world and prisons have become hot spots in other nations touched by the outbreak.
Coronavirus suddenly exploded in China’s prisons last week, with reports of more than 500 cases spreading across five facilities in three provinces. Earlier this week in Iran, 54,000 inmates were temporarily released back into the country amid virus fears.
Jail operators in the U.S. are coming to the growing realization that it’s only a matter of time before it strikes here.
“Jails are, you know, just prime opportunities for something like this to spread,” said Bossier Parish Sheriff Julian Whittington, the president of the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association. “I’m a realist and I suspect more than likely sometime it’s going to pop up in somebody’s jail.”
Health officials have been warning for more than a decade about the dangers of outbreaks in jails and prisons, which are […]