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Senate stimulus diminishes risk of COVID-19 for incarcerated individuals

Prison cells.

Senate stimulus bill acknowledges risk of COVID-19 for incarcerated individuals but more needed

Washington DC — Today the U.S. Senate is expected to approve a $2 trillion stimulus package to support communities and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation includes funding for federal, state and local corrections systems to counteract the spread of COVID-19 among the 2.2 million people incarcerated in the United States. The legislation also allows the Department of Justice to lift current restrictions on the federal prison system’s home confinement program and offers free telephone calls and video conferencing to those incarcerated in the federal Bureau of Prisons.

The Sentencing Project’s Director of Strategic Initiatives, Kara Gotsch, issued the following statement in response to the Senate’s expected action:  

“The Senate’s emergency funding of $100 million for federal prisons and $850 million for state and local law enforcement agencies, including corrections facilities, is a limited acknowledgment of the public health catastrophe awaiting millions of incarcerated people. Overcrowded and unsanitary conditions in prisons and jails across the country jeopardize the lives of many people in custody who could become infected with the coronavirus. Much of the corrections funding is directed to reducing the risk of the pandemic spreading in prisons and jails. But in order to protect the lives of incarcerated elderly people and those with chronic health conditions, Congress must also incentivize prisons and jails to release those individuals most at risk of death from COVID-19 through measures including expanding parole consideration, executive clemency, and compassionate release.”

Last week The Sentencing Project endorsed comprehensive recommendations for Congress to protect the health and well-being of incarcerated adults and youth during the coronavirus crisis. The Sentencing Project will continue its advocacy for additional relief for those in custody. Yesterday, The Sentencing Project sent a letter to President Trump urging him to use his clemency power to release vulnerable people from federal prisons.

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