COVID-19 “protocol-sharing” roundtables with more than 100 criminal justice system practitioners from 20 states illuminate the many steps needed to reduce jail and prison populations successfully.
As many U.S. prisons and jails begin early-release initiatives to save the lives of corrections workers and prisoners caught in the path of COVID-19, a new report from NYU’s Marron Institute of Urban Management surfaces the unprecedented practical hurdles facing reentrants and recommends practices for assisting new releasees. Housing shortages, record unemployment, and inadequate community-based infrastructure such as mental health/drug treatment face newly freed prisoners in this pandemic, according to “Lessons from the Field to Inform Responses to COVID-19 in Corrections,” while prison mechanisms for preparing and supervising releasees need review and retooling. The 11-page report distills learnings from five COVID-19 “protocol-sharing” roundtables held by Marron with more than 100 criminal justice system practitioners from 20 states, and a close look at the NYU Marron team’s early-release program before the outbreak in Illinois. The report calls for transparent processes for selecting who will be let out and additional support for reentrants around the time of release. “Scattershot approaches to releasing prisoners, without substantial accompanying supports, will diminish prospects for succeeding in the community and may undermine future criminal justice reform efforts,” the authors write.
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