In Philly’s jails, the threat posed by pandemics like COVID-19 is not limited to those behind their walls. Corrections officers, administrators and health workers come and go on a daily basis, in addition to the inmates who are released because they make bail or have served their sentence.
For example, New York City’s jail, Riker’s Island, shows how jails allow the virus to spread throughout the community: 180 inmates have tested positive but so have 141 corrections officers and an additional 23 healthcare workers which means that almost half of the people infected are not inmates and have been spreading the virus outside of the jail.
Jail population reduction is the only way to prevent the death of those at highest risk, or spreading it to our communities. It is not possible for county jails to implement the most critical preventive measures set forth in the CDC Guidance: social distancing, preventive hygiene, and the medical isolation of confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases.
The Philadelphia jails are now the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in Philadelphia. With 39 cases in a population of just 4,357, the Philadelphia jails have a higher infection rate (8.95 per 1,000 people) than any zip code in Philadelphia.
The infection rate in Philly’s jails’is 4.71 times the rate of Philadelphia as a whole and over 11 times the rate of Pennsylvania. In fact, the Philadelphia jails’ infection rate has now surpassed that of some of the hardest-hit areas across the globe, including New York City, Lombardy, Italy, and, Wuhan, China.