Concerns abound as the response to coronavirus has led to inmates being released back into society in an effort to slow transmission of the virus. Many are left wondering if these decisions will jeopardize the safety of society if these known criminals reoffend or commit more heinous crimes when they are released.
Problems quickly surfaced when California inmates, allegedly, intentionally tried to spread the virus in a desperate attempt to be released from prison. The truly dark side of prisoners has been seen as reports abound of inmates purposefully coughing on corrections officers as a means of infecting them.
Much turmoil is occurring in prisons across the nation; however, New York city has decided it would be wise to simply release upwards of 1,700 prisoners in past weeks. Not only have criminals been simply dumped back into society before their sentence was served, they were even rewarded with paid hotel stays, gift cards, and cell phones to ensure a cushy reentry into society.
This all begs the question of how should the nation respond to the imminent threat of coronavirus spread in close prison quarters, while addressing the very real possibility that release could pose a significant risk to society?
Some feel a more reasonable approach would be to implement social distancing approaches within the walls of the prison. However, these ideas seem to be gaining little traction with public officials.
Releasing criminals in an attempt to stop Covid-19 may help reduce infections within prisons, but at what cost to society? Not to mention, once released will criminals follow proper protocols as outlined by state governors or will they be the very ones who further perpetuate the illness to those around them?
It appears many of these questions are already being answered, as evidence suggests within mere days or weeks of criminals being released in New York City, many have already reoffended and are back in jail presently. This simply defeats the purpose of release, if criminals simply return in a few short days, all the while putting society at greater risk for criminal acts during an already tumultuous and frightening time.
As with many ethical dilemmas there seems to be no easy answer. Corrections officers are certainly a population of workers that have been deemed essential. They put their lives on the line each day to ensure criminals stay behind bars, yet they may be infected by inmates who intentionally try to evoke harm to their health and well-being.
Public officials continue to grapple with the health crisis and the proper handling of prison situations that impact the health and safety of many innocent prison employees and civilians.