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NC Policy Watch features Lauren Brinkley-Rubinstein, PhD, CHER Faculty, Op/Ed on “We must act now to prevent an epidemic in North Carolina’s prisons and jails.”

We must act now to prevent an epidemic in North Carolina’s prisons and jails

Learn how Lauren Brinkley-Rubinstein, PhD, CHER Faculty involvement with North Carolina’s prison and jail systems are related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

What will happen when COVID-19 reaches our local jails and prisons in North Carolina? Without a change to state policy, we fear the worst. Many facilities are already overcrowded and have inadequate living conditions. But with the new coronavirus spreading and multiplying throughout the state, staff shortages, lack of adequate medical care and rapid contagion are a near-certainty if action is not taken immediately.

Universities, courts (which have largely closed), and entire communities, cities, and states are taking drastic action to respond to this national emergency, mandating that people engage in social distancing and stay at home. Jail and prison environments housing multiple people in close quarters cannot assure social distancing. Thus, people who are incarcerated are at extreme risk. As one former New York City corrections administrator put it, “nobody has invented a more effective vector for transmitting disease than a city jail.” 

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