Prisons & Pandemics

By: Jasmin Argueta, Fiza Baloch, Juliet Ottenberg

The blunt dehumanization of prisoners amidst a pandemic is something we must all call into question.

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The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted prison populations at a higher rate than the general population. Let’s take a journey and understand why prisoners have been given lesser priority & dehumanizing treatment throughout the history of pandemics. Looking through the lens of Labeling theory helps set the base and clearly understand how prisoners are grouped into the category of ““delinquent””, ““untrustworthy””, and ““them.”” We then take a step further and analyze the ways systemic racism ensures imprisonment is forced onto communities of color. The social stigmas associated with prisoners thereafter impacts the way the public & government allocate money, time, and energy to carceral systems. Thereafter, in order to understand what is legally lacking within prison walls we must analyze the history of healthcare in prisons. By looking at past court cases, we can see what the legal standard for adequate care currently is within carceral systems. Next, we’ll look closely at the history of infectious disease control within prisons, to compare and contrast the steps taken to protect prisoners. Next, we take a step back and give prisoners a space to share their Covid-19 prison experiences through interviews and art. Finally, we discuss vaccinations and take a look into the future in order to understand what more can be done about the mishandling of healthcare in the prison system.

A really wonderful job exploring the details of a hard problem… and one that will likely be with us for a while… I learned tons reading through the magazine, about every aspect of healthcare in prisons. Fantastic work! – Prof. Kelty

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