How Covid has opened prison doors
America locks off far more people — roughly 2.1 million — than any other nation, states Linda So. However, the pandemic could be exactly what ?nally caused it to unwind its”signature clinic of mass incarcer- ation”. In the spring, the fast spread of Covid-19 compelled of?cials to take radical measures to reduce prison overcrowding. Inmates were released early; and wrongdoers who’d normally were sent to prison were granted non-custodial terms instead. Because of this, the inhabitants of the nation’s local jails and state prisons plunged by 170,000 between February and May. Ever since then, of?cials in some areas have abandoned these steps, and began re?lling their own jails again. But others are considering making the temporary reforms permanent: issuing ?nes for small, non-violent offences, making more use of drug rehab programmes, and — crucially — only jailing people once they are condemned. Currently, local jails”hold over 480,000 individuals awaiting trial”. Nevertheless”legally presumed innocent”, they constitute about two-thirds of the local jail population. Critics state that freeing more prisoners will lead to a surge in crime, but there’s little evidence of it yet. In any event, Covid has supplied the US with an chance to at least experiment with”decarceration”.