Governor’s Task Force Report Offers Clear Recommendations to Address Spread of COVID-19 in Detention Facilities: “There is no public safety without public health.”

Photo Credit: Adam Nieścioruk

July 9, 2020

New Orleans, La. —The Louisiana Health Equity Task Force, funded by Governor Edward’s COVID-19 Response Fund, with members appointed by the governor from the medical, legislative, academic, faith, and public health sectors, has released its findings on and recommendations to better serve communities most impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. This report contains reliable, robust data and can serve as a roadmap for Louisiana medical professionals and policymakers.

The task force subcommittee on special populations, comprised mostly of medical professionals, investigated the impact of COVID-19 in Louisiana prisons. Their report states that “Infections and deaths for people in detention facilities, including staff and the incarcerated, are likely to rise. This increase will continue to have a disproportionate impact on Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and the elderly. Medical risk of death is not (and should not) be part of a person’s sentence.”

The subcommittee outlines the many factors that make, “incarcerated people uniquely vulnerable to the COVID-19 crisis” including the population’s lack of access to preventative measures and the lack of government oversight or public transparency. Additionally, Louisiana’s incarcerated population is on average over the age of 40 and is two-thirds Black, Hispanic, Indigenous, and People of Color, all populations that more likely to have underlying health conditions or an increased likelihood of serious complications from COVID-19. The report further states that, “The spread of COVID-19 in these facilities endangers not only incarcerated people, but also the employees in these institutions, the families of both staff and incarcerated people, and ultimately, the general public.”

The final report, released June 15th, provides a comprehensive plan to address the further spread likely in Louisiana detention facilities. The recommendations center the fact that, “There is no public safety without public health.” The document provides step by step instructions on reducing severe illness or death from COVID-19 for those held in or employed by prisons, jails, or juvenile detention centers through detailed directives such as return all incarcerated children safely to their homes and “conduct mass universal testing across the prison system every 14 days.”

Director of Civil Litigation for the Promise of Justice Initiative, Nishi Kumar, said, “The directives from the medical and public health professionals who produced this report are clear and we commend Governor Edwards for moving swiftly to build this task force. We are hopeful that the governor will take the thoughtful guidance outlined by experts and implement a plan to protect incarcerated and detained people across the state who have already been disproportionately medically, mentally, and emotionally impacted by the pandemic. If enacted immediately, these recommendations could reduce the harm caused by the crisis of COVID-19 in Louisiana.”

The subcommittee recommendations are as follows:

Immediate-term Recommendations

  1. The Governor should appoint a Statewide Independent Public Health Monitor over all jails and prisons.
  2. Decarceration or controlled evacuation to enable proper social distancing.
  3. Evacuate all positive patients to medical facility for observation/treatment.
  4. Enable social distancing as the cornerstone of mitigation.
  5. Prioritize Testing, Hygiene, and Sanitation.
  6. Adopt measures to address COVID-19 related mental health concerns.
  7. LDH to work in collaboration with DOC to provide real-time, publicly available data on COVID-19 deaths, cases, and facility COVID-19 preparedness and response protocols.
  8. Deepening capacity to plan, prepare, and respond.
  9. Ensuring measurement of evaluation and impact.

Long-term Recommendations

  1. Deepening capacity to plan, prepare, and respond.
  2. Ensuring measurement of evaluation and impact.

 

Media Contact:

Mercedes Montagnes, Executive Director

(917) 488-5975 / (504) 529-5955

mmontages@defendla.org

 

Governor’s Task Force Report Offers Clear Recommendations to Address Spread of COVID-19 in Detention Facilities: “There is no public safety without public health.”
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