prison system

Matthew Ansley / Unsplash

Fewer people are being arrested and sent to jail in the United States, but Oklahoma seems to defy the trend.

Flickr / Wesley Fryer

Criminal justice reform advocates are doubling down on their requests to send some state prisoners home during the Coronavirus pandemic. They want the Governor Kevin Stitt to approve the releases for more than 280 prisoners.

The state Pardon and Parole Board already recommended the prisoners' sentences be commuted and Stitt has mostly agreed with the board's recommendations in the past.

Third Federal Inmate Dies From COVID-19

Apr 1, 2020

Updated 8:34 p.m. ET

A third person held at the federal prison in Oakdale, La., has died of COVID-19, according to Federal Bureau of Prisons officials. The person's name was not released while authorities notified the person's next of kin.

Governor Kevin Stitt and Attorney General Mike Hunter are giving police advice on how to avoid contracting coronavirus and prevent others from spreading it.

The guidance includes a disclaimer that the governor and attorney general are not calling for dangerous criminals to be released from jail, but right now they say it is better for fewer people to be in jails and prisons.

Criminal justice reform advocates are calling for the release of people from county jails and state prisons as the coronavirus spreads.

Their long list of requests includes wanting elderly prisoners, prisoners with immune deficiencies and people on the verge of release out of state prisons. They’re also calling for the Pardon and Parole Board to expedite releases for people who might already be eligible for shortened sentences.

Kris Steele, leader of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform says incarcerated people are at high risk of spreading the virus.

A federal judge has ordered the release of 10 people held by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in New Jersey county jails where COVID-19 has been confirmed, citing chronic medical conditions of the detainees that make them particularly vulnerable to the disease.

Those ordered freed range in age from 31 to 56 years of age and have medical conditions including diabetes, heart disease and obesity, and some with past histories that include pneumonia and smoking. Five were being held at Bergen County Jail, three at Hudson County Jail and the other two at Essex County Jail.

As people across the globe enter self-isolation, what's happening to people who were already in lockdown before the coronavirus pandemic?

Hundreds of thousands of people are in prison across the world. And without many resources, medical and otherwise, prisoners are at high risk for contracting the coronavirus. 

The U.N. is calling for countries to reduce the number of people in detention, saying that "physical distancing and self-isolation in such conditions are practically impossible."

U.N. High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet says authorities should look for ways to release people in detention who are especially vulnerable to the disease, such as those who are elderly or who have health issues. She says they should also consider releasing low-risk offenders.

As COVID-19 begins to hit jails and lockups around the country, the Trump administration is coming under growing pressure to release elderly and other particularly vulnerable inmates in the federal prison system to mitigate the risk of the virus' spread.

Already, three inmates and three staff at federal correctional facilities across the United States have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. In detention centers at the state and local level, including in New York City's jail system, confirmed cases of COVID-19 are on the rise.

As the Coronavirus spreads across the nation, it has exposed potentially dire health care conditions in some prisons and jails. That's forced many to change the way they operate.