From a series of seven panel workshops on lessons learned from how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the criminal justice system, this report focuses on the proceedings of one workshop panel that included administrators of both jail and prison systems, correctional health care providers, and other experts who discussed how the pandemic has affected these facilities and their systems’ respective responses.
In addition, a separate community workshop provided input on the broader effects of changes made by institutional corrections agencies and the justice system generally. Challenging aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic for correctional facilities include limited space that precludes social distancing to prevent virus transmission; the difficulties of managing large-scale testing for the virus in correctional facilities; and the ineffectiveness of health-care delivery to incarcerated populations, even before the pandemic. The workshop panel identified some key adaptations made by corrections facilities in countering the spread of COVID-19 among their residents. These included reductions in jail and prison populations, isolation and quarantine of infected and high-risk residents, the use of masks and hygiene practices, personal protective equipment for staff, cessation of in-person inmate visitation and delivery of services that involved interaction with persons from other than regular facility staff, and the use of “virtual” models for inmate visitation and treatment interactions. The workshop also identified promising practices to continue beyond the pandemic. These include maintenance of reduced incarcerated populations, the use of virtual models for visitations and treatment delivery, and the inclusion of prisons and jails in public health agencies’ disaster planning. Examples are also provided of workshop questions that could be addressed in providing guidance for post-pandemic evaluations and research.
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