As John Oliver points out in the video above, the consequences of this are far-reaching. Rather than being a contained population, prisons and jails constantly have people coming and going – including staff, inmates being transferred to other facilities, and prisoners being treated at local hospitals – all of which could end up furthering the spread of the disease.
Oliver’s solution? Get as many people out of prisons and jails as possible, as quickly as possible.
“At this point, it’s worth asking: What the fuck are we doing here?” says the Last Week Tonight Host. “Particularly during this pandemic, but also in general. Because there’s obviously a much larger discussion to be had about how millions of people ended up incarcerated in the first place, and whether or not prisons even work — which I would argue, they absolutely do, if your only goal is to have a lot of people in prison.
“The fact is, we should be depopulating prisons and jails as quickly as we can right now. And I know how that sounds, because we were all raised hearing that you shouldn’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time. But in our current system, you’re never just being sentenced to time. You’re being sentenced to a lifetime of social stigma, futile job interviews, and roadblocks to necessities like housing.
“All of that is immoral enough; there is frankly no reason whatsoever we should now also be sentencing people to die from a virus. Because that’s not justice; it’s neglect.”