(TMU) — Prisons have increasingly become a point of concern for health experts as data shows that these facilities have been encouraging the spread of the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. According to data compiled by the New York Times, the largest new cluster of SARS-CoV-2 infections in the United States is in the Cook County Jail in Chicago, one of the biggest prisons in the country.
This should come as no surprise considering that prisons are notoriously unsanitary, and inmates often have weakened immune systems due to lack of nutrition in the typical jailhouse diet.
At Cook County Jail, 304 inmates and 174 staff members have tested positive for the virus, but officials have said that the real number is likely far higher because only a small percentage of the inmates at the facility have actually been tested.
This prison, and likely many others, is acting as an incubation center for the illness, which ultimately leads to greater spread in nearby communities. The virus was likely initially brought into the prison by correctional officers and other workers at the facility, or perhaps by friends or family members of inmates before visitation was stopped last month. Once the virus finds its way into one of these facilities, it can spread very easily because the inmates are kept in close proximity in unsanitary conditions. Now that there is a massive cluster of infected inmates, corrections officers and other workers are taking the virus back to their families and communities.
The virus has already taken the life of one inmate at Cook County Jail. The inmate died while handcuffed to a hospital bed. According to the Chicago Sun Times, the family of the inmate is now suing the prison for violating his constitutional rights.
The “shackling policy, applied to [the inmate], was excessive, caused gratuitous pain, and violated his rights under the Fourteenth Amendment,” the lawsuit states.
Other inmates who fear that they could suffer the same fate have put up signs in the windows of the facility that say things like “help us, don’t let us die,” and “save us.”
On Thursday, protesters urged the Cook County Sheriff’s Department to release inmates from the jail, according to WGNTV. Prisons in many U.S. states have released nonviolent offenders in an attempt to mitigate the spread of the virus.
A recent press release from the Cook County Sheriff’s Department said that action has already been taken to reduce the inmate population at the prison. According to the press release, 1,247 inmates have been released from the facility since March 9, which is a decrease of nearly 22% in the prison’s population.
Unrest has also been occurring at prisons all over the world as inmates feel that they are being put in danger amid the current pandemic. Last week, the Mind Unleashed reported that there was a prison riot involving over 100 inmates at the Monroe Corrections Complex in Washington state. And last month, 16 inmates escaped a prison in Italy after a riot broke out because officials canceled all visits. In Iran, over 100,000 inmates have been released from prison, but those who remained have also rioted in hopes of breaking free.
It was recently revealed that Julian Assange has two young children. Their mother, his fiancée, publicly revealed that the pair is engaged and hoping to marry while making a plea for his release from Belmarsh Prison in London. His fiancée said, “Julian’s poor physical health puts him at serious risk, like many other vulnerable people, and I don’t believe he will survive infection with coronavirus.”
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