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The Heightened Risk and Dangers of COVID-19 Outbreak in Virginia Jails and Prisons

The COVID-19 pandemic is shedding light on how quickly infections spread in confined areas, such as in Virginia prisons and jails. Older adults and those with certain medical conditions are at a heightened risk of experiencing severe and potentially life-threatening illnesses after exposure to COVID-19. Given the accelerating rate of COVID-19 infections throughout the world, it is inevitable that almost every Virginia prison and jail will experience an outbreak to some degree. The rapid spread of the disease may have devastating effects on the well-being of those who work or are confined to Virginia prisons and jails.

In response to the growing concern of the health and safety of incarcerated individuals, corrections officers, and those that live in communities near these facilities, the World Health Organization (WHO) has provided guidance for responding to COVID-19 outbreaks in detention facilities. Included in this guidance is the importance of wide-scale testing, screening, and treatment for the infection. Despite, incarceration, individuals at these facilities maintain the constitutional right to appropriate healthcare treatment and services.

The WHO’s recommendation is challenging for Virginia correctional facilities because the guidance is not tailored to these types of environments. First, testing and screening for COVID-19 is the most critical part of mitigating the spread of the infection; however, it is unclear whether communities are requesting and receiving enough tests to account for the prison population. Further, most correctional institutions lack the appropriate number of medical supplies, such as personal protective equipment, ventilators, and oxygen tanks. Additionally, because these facilities typically place security over an inmate’s health when allocating resources, they tend to lack an appropriate number of healthcare workers. Given the relationship between correctional officers and incarcerated individuals, it is almost impossible for these facilities to abide by the Centers for Disease Control recommendations on social distancing.

Individuals who work in and are confined to Virginia prisons and jails are part of the community, and there is an ethical obligation to protect the health and safety of this part of the population. Prevention and protection may include releasing people from prisons and jails, providing the correctional medical community with the power to determine how to house the remaining population, and enhancing communication between inmates and their loved ones. Without changes, the outbreak will continue to have disastrous effects in Virginia.

Contact a Virginia Criminal Defense Attorney for Immediate Assistance

If you or a loved one has a pending criminal matter or is currently in custody, contact the Virginia criminal defense lawyers at Robinson Law, PLLC. The attorneys at our law firm understand the devastating toll that incarceration can have on an individual and their family, especially during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We are closely monitoring the pandemic and are continuing to work to protect the rights of Virginia criminal defendants, including getting our clients out of these dangerous conditions and preventing new clients from incarceration. We handle various types of criminal cases, including, Virginia drug charges, gun offenses, and sexual assault allegations. If you have a Virginia criminal case contact our office by calling 703-542-4008 to schedule a free consultation over the phone.

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