Case study

Please read the articles linked below and answer the following questions:
Step 1: Analyze the Ethical Dimensions of the Public Health Issue and Context

During the COVID-19 pandemic, individuals in the criminal justice system are at increased risk of contracting COVID-19. Following CDC guidelines, such as social distancing and hand washing is challenging in these confined spaces. The Sheriff’s department who is responsible for ensuring safety and welfare of the inmates at the local county jail has contacted your team at the local health department for guidance.

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As jails are unable to adequately follow CDC guidelines, should offenders be eligible for early release? If yes, what types of offenders? Should any precautions be put in place? Such as self-quarantine or remote monitoring? Should inmates be required to pay bail?
Individuals in the local county jail have tested positive for COVID-19. Several prisoners have been granted parole. Should these individuals that may have been exposed to COVID-19 be released into the community, or should they be retained? Why or why not?
The healthcare costs (financial burden) of inmates at the local county jail is on the county government. How does this impact your decision to release individuals.

Step 2: Formulate Alternative Courses of Action and Evaluate their Ethical Dimensions

There are 3 choices suggested in this case study:

Shrink the jail population by releasing inmates early regardless of their ability to pay bail
Release inmates only if they can pay bail
Retain inmates in lockup because they may be infected and could spread COVID-19 to the community
What are the ethical implications of these options?

Step 3: Provide Justification for a Particular Public Health Decision
What is the justification for your decision? (Which ethical principles take priority and why?)

Reading #1
Addressing the justice-involved population in Coronavirus response efforts.
(Links to an external site.)
This issue brief from the Kaiser Family Foundation will provide background information on the case.
Artiga, S., & Corallo, B. (2020, April 20). Addressing the justice-involved population in Coronavirus response efforts.Retrieved from kff.org: https://www.kff.org/report-section/addressing-the-justice-involved-population-in-coronavirus-response-efforts-issue-brief/

Link: Addressing the Justice-Involved Population in Coronavirus Response Efforts – Issue Brief – 9438 | KFF

Reading #2
The COVID-19 struggle in Chicago’s Cook County Jail
This short article from NPR reviews the approach Cook County officials are taking to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the Cook County Jail.
Corley, C. (2020, April 13). The COVID-19 struggle in Chicago’s Cook County Jail. Retrieved from npr.org: https://www.npr.org/2020/04/13/833440047/the-covid-19-struggle-in-chicagos-cook-county-jail

Link: The COVID-19 struggle in Chicago’s Cook County Jail (Links to an external site.) (npr.org)

Reading #3
Jail and prisons spring thousands to prevent coronavirus outbreaks
In this article from Kaiser Health News addressed the actions of jail officials in California and several other states to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
Kreider, M. (2020, April 16). Jail and prisons spring thousands to prevent coronavirus outbreaks. Retrieved from Kaiser Health News: https://khn.org/news/jails-and-prisons-spring-thousands-to-prevent-coronavirus-outbreaks/

Link: Jails And Prisons Spring Thousands To Prevent Coronavirus Outbreaks | Kaiser Health News (khn.org)

Reading #4
Many Texas prisoners have been approved for parole but can’t walk free yet. Advocates say coronavirus should change that.
This article explores the tensions between preventing the spread of COVID-19 among inmates in Texas and the potential of increasing crime perpetrated by inmates released early.
McCullough, J. (2020, April 14). Many Texas prisoners have been approved for parole but can’t walk free yet. Advocates say coronavirus should change that. Retrieved from The Texas Tribune: https://www.texastribune.org/2020/04/14/coronavirus-alters-texas-prisoners-parole-programs-required-release/

Link: Coronavirus alters Texas prisoners’ parole programs required before release | The Texas Tribune

Reading #5
As local officials shrink jail populations due to Coronavirus, Abbott blocks release of some inmates who can’t pay bail.
In this article the tensions between protecting the public from violent crime and reducing the transmission of COVID-19 in jails is explored. The article also addresses tensions between the authority of state government and county law officials.
McCullough, J., & Platoff, E. (2020, March 29). As local officials shrink jail populations due to coronavirus, Abbott blocks release of some inmates who can’t pay bail. Retrieved from The Texas Tribute: https://www.texastribune.org/2020/03/29/texas-governor-bans-release-without-bail-some-inmates-amid-coronavirus/

Link: Texas governor bans release without bail for some inmates amid coronavirus | The Texas Tribune

Reading #6
COVID-19 protections in Texas jails necessary, civil rights leaders call for action
This article presents 5 actions that the ACLU is calling for from Texas criminal justice officials.
Mejia, I. (2020, March 19). COVID-19 protections in Texas jails necessary, civil rights leaders call for action.Retrieved from aclutx.org: https://www.aclutx.org/en/press-releases/covid-19-protections-texas-jails-necessary-civil-rights-leaders-call-action

Link: COVID-19 Protections in Texas Jails Necessary, Civil Rights Leaders Call for Action | ACLU of Texas | We defend the civil rights and civil liberties of all people in Texas, by working through the legislature, the courts and in the streets. (aclutx.org)

Reading #7
Responses to the COVID-19 pandemic
This article from the non-profit Prison Policy Initiative describes actions taken by jails across the country to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 among inmates.
Prison Policy Initiative. (2020, April 17). Responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Retrieved from prisonpolicy.org: https://www.prisonpolicy.org/virus/virusresponse.html

Link:
Projecting the transmission dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 through the postpandemic period | Science (sciencemag.org)

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