Data transparency and standardization from carceral facilities have been dismal and impede life-saving public health responses. The inhumane conditions incarcerated people are facing are hidden, many of which are worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. In partnership with formerly incarcerated people we developed an anonymous survey to give voice to those confined in carceral settings during the pandemic to assess physical distancing abilities, access to basic necessities and sanitation resources. Data were collected from formerly incarcerated adults released after March 1, 2020 and adults in communication with currently incarcerated individuals. Results show inadequate access to free soap, water, and toilet paper. Confinement conditions did not allow for physical distancing. These findings demonstrate human rights violations and support the need for decarceration during the pandemic. All data and results collected will be shared publicly to support efforts to protect and serve the needs of those impacted by the criminal punishment system.
Background and Objectives: Rates of COVID-19 among incarcerated populations are significantly higher than the general population. Data documenting confinement conditions among incarcerated individuals are lacking. We assessed the feasibility of collecting these data utilizing a community-science approach.
Methods: We developed a web-based pilot survey with community partners to collect information from July 25 through September 7, 2020 on confinement conditions among individuals incarcerated in the US. Formerly incarcerated adults released after March 1, 2020, or non-incarcerated adults in communication with a currently incarcerated person were recruited through our community partners. Data on the facility type, personal hygiene resources, physical distancing, and sanitation were collected.
Results: Of the 107 responses, 74% were based on communications with someone currently incarcerated and 81% reported conditions in state prisons. Most participants reported inadequate access to soap (93%), water (66%), toilet paper (78%) and showers (57%). Moreover, 94% reported an inability to maintain physical distance from others at all times (>6 feet) and 92% reported no disinfection of high touch surfaces.
Conclusions: Our findings suggest data on confinement conditions can be collected through community engagement. Basic needs and safety measures to mitigate COVID-19 are not sufficiently addressed within carceral settings, placing individuals at undue risk.