Today, leading public health and medicine experts called on Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker to take immediate action to protect the health of those who live and work in detention facilities.
The letter, signed by Dr. Mary T. Bassett, Director of François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University, and more than 80 faculty members from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School, urges Governor Baker to take a number of steps to reduce the size of the incarcerated population and protect the health of incarcerated individuals and staff. Steps include:
- Requiring correctional facility administrators to make their plans for prevention and management of COVID-19 in their institutions publicly available, as the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department has done, and available to incarcerated people in their custody
- Ensuring that intake screening protocols are updated to include COVID-specific questions
- Monitoring and ensuring the availability of sufficient soap and hand sanitizer for all staff and incarcerated individuals, without charge
- Reserving pre-trial detention only for genuine cases of proven security concerns, and granting compassionate release for people most at risk of negative health consequences from COVID-19
- Easing or eliminating public housing restrictions that prevent people with records of arrest or conviction from living with loved ones who receive housing assistance, to ensure that people released from incarceration have homes to return to where they can safely practice social distancing