Columns: Reduced incarceration, prison population reduced COVID-19 infection

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Columns: Reduced incarceration, prison population reduced COVID-19 infection

As the new coronavirus pandemic spread in Hawaii, the community is dependent on the government to protect the people from harm. “Social distance” is necessary now, flatly applying the curve of new, deadly and continuously spreading COVID-19, and to prevent suffering and death that will inevitably occur when our hospitals are overwhelmed.

However, for thousands of people held in Hawaii’s overpopulated prisons and prisons, social distance is impossible.

While we acknowledge the efforts of the state Department of Public Safety (PSD) to address COVID-19, we emphasize the urgent need to reduce populations at our correctional facilities, incubators know for infection. Small steps in the face of rapid community spread are enough; Hawaii must do more if we have any hope of spreading COVID-19.

The department was able to accelerate releases of the medically vulnerable and those in shared and extended furlough. The state could provide low-level, nonviolent lawmakers as Los Angeles, New Jersey and many other jurisdictions are doing and the Hawaii defender and others recommend. The Hawaii Speech Authority could use new procedures for probation hearings using technology and reviewing records for early discharge.

As the case of COVID-19 increases across the state, immediate action is needed to do everything possible to stop the spread and the burden that this disease will place on our healthcare infrastructure. Correctional facilities should treat this coronavirus as a health threat and a major emergency; our leaders must take decisive action.

PSD employees who keep their facilities running are screened on entry. Screening must also be conducted before leaving for possible transmission of this disease to families and the larger community. The department must provide staff with education, tools and resources for infection control to protect working and living people on the premises.

The following is a list of urgent actions the state can, and should, take to protect those under its care and care. The Department of Pre-Thinking is taking steps across the country; Hawaii should not wait.

>> Work with the Hawaii Speech Authority to release more medically to the community or family care immediately.

>> Test everyone in jail and staff with symptoms of “fever, cough, shortness of breath” as indicated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

>> Release prisoners to low levels of bail on bail or through administrative authority and technical probation or probation violation.

>> Delay the start of jail in terms of practice time.

>> Develop a publicly available prevention and response plan, in coordination with the Department of Health, CDC counseling and best medical practices.

>> Eliminate copayments required for visits to prisoner medical units; treatment should not depend on an individual’s ability to pay.

>> Educating the jail and the staff on the COVID-19 PSD is related to policies and procedures, and ways to protect themselves and others from infection.

>> Implement the required protocols and hygiene for people from facilities, in addition to those who enter.

>> Provide sufficient access to the necessary sanitation, cleaning and free hygiene supplies.

>> Eliminate or reduce priority phone fees and offer free phone and video visits to all inmates.

>> Work with the judiciary and the authority to grant probation to develop temporary and temporary probation procedures to ensure that the social distance can be maintained.

>> Communicate all COVID-19 related plans and guidelines to the public for transparency and accountability.

Everyone has their cause to stop the spread of this disease. We offer these suggestions in the spirit of aloha; we seek to assure our brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers inside, whom our state swears to protect, will not forget.

Kat Brady is the coordinator of the Community Alliance on Prisons. Other co-signers for this piece: Common Cause of Hawaii – Sandy Ma; Drug Policy Forum in Hawaii – Nikos Leverenz; Hawaii Friends of Restorative Justice – Lorenn Walker; Hawaii Health and Disease Reduction Center – Heather Lusk; Hawaii Innocence Project – Ken Lawson, co-director; Hawaii Justice Coalition – Carrie Ann Shirota; Life in the Country – Henry Curtis; Medical Legal Partnership Hawaii – Deja Ostrowski; Progressive youth demand action; Robert Merce, vice president of the HCR 85 Task Force; Justice Steven H. Levinson (Ret.); Dr. Marilyn Brown; Dr. Robert Perkinson; Barbara B. Polk; Aaron Wills; Richard Sing; Daphne Barbee-Wooten; and Myles Breiner.