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No visits, few phone calls – pandemics make separation even more scary for people with families in prison

A Texas woman shows a photo of her 21-year-old son imprisoned during a pandemic. AP Photo / LM OteroJails and US prisons have three times the coronavirus infection rate of the general population, with an average of 1,400 COVID-19 infections occurring daily over the past year, killing seven people. Correctional facilities in the United States are notorious for the spread of infectious diseases. Millions of people are constantly coming and going each year, and their medical staff and supplies are limited. Prisoners also spend long periods in crowded indoor spaces with inadequate air circulation and ventilation. For many who are waiting for a prison trial or are convicted and imprisoned, being trapped in a pandemic hotspot is scary. Also, according to criminological research, COVID-19 has already exacerbated a very stressful situation for 6.5 million Americans whose families have been imprisoned. Throughout the summer of 2020, we surveyed more than 500 people whose families were imprisoned in Texas, the worst state in the country for COVID-19 outbreaks in correctional facilities. Nearly 200 people made personal statements about imprisoning their loved ones during a pandemic. People expressed deep concern about family captivity and struggled to address new pandemic restrictions on visits and other communications. With 2,564 imprisoned people in the United States dead already this year, many feared that their families would die in prison on COVID-19 alone. “We don’t imprison, we torture.” To date, the Texas Criminal Justice Department has more than 34,000 positive COVID-19 cases, and Texas prison infection rates are 40% higher than the national prison population average. It has become. Texas records some of the highest COVID-19 deaths among imprisoned people across the country. As of April 16, 2021, 187 people have died. Based in Huntsville, the Texas Criminal Justice Department operates nearly 100 detention facilities, including 50 state prisons and dozens of state prisons. Of the prison. Chantal Valerie via Getty Images / AFP Our research participants belonged to the Texas Inmate Family Association, a non-profit organization that helps people with families in captivity in the state. Since the survey was conducted anonymously, we have included only limited personal information about respondents and their families here and have not verified their claims. According to our research, people whose families were imprisoned during the pandemic experienced extreme distress. 79% were very concerned that their loved ones would be infected with COVID-19 in prison. The majority were women whose children or spouses were imprisoned. “My son is trapped in a cell over 100 degrees Celsius for more than 23 hours a day for weeks because of COVID,” a 74-year-old woman living near San Marcos told us. talked. “I’m worried he’ll die of a medical condition or somehow kill him.” Many Texas prisons don’t have masks, soaps, or hand sanitizers. However, families are not allowed to bring disinfectants into prison. It is considered a contraband in federal prisons and state prisons in more than 12 states. One father compared the situation his child was experiencing in prison with a “concentration camp.” Even before the pandemic, the mother told us that putting her child in jail was stressful. Living conditions are dire, food is not nutritious, dentistry and medical care are too difficult to access, [and] There are too many extended blockades. “We will not imprison, we will torture,” she said. The Texas Criminal Justice Department has been sued in the past for prison conditions, and more recently for coronavirus policies and practices. “We have lost some of us.” Imprisonment always physically separates the family. That is part of the punishment. And during COVID-19, it’s a particularly severe punishment. Robertson Unit’s largest prison facility on the outskirts of Abilene, Texas. “The most difficult part of this pandemic is the lack of a husband on my side,” said a woman from San Antonio (Robert Nickelsburg / Getty Images). Her husband has been imprisoned for 11 years. Texas prisons severely restricted all types of contact with the outside world, including video and telephone, and a complete ban on visits on March 13, 2020, when Governor Greg Abbott declared a state of emergency. It also included the Juvenile Training School. “The phone was disabled during COVID, [the] You rarely get a call in just five minutes, “said a Houston woman whose son was held in Huntsville Prison, Texas. “It’s very hard for prisoners, but very hard for families.” Texas reopened prisons and prisons on March 15, 2021. But this separation has already hit the old intimate relationship, our research shows. “We lost some of us who had been away for a long time. We are not the same person,” said the imprisoned fiancée who was unable to communicate with her last summer49. Said an old woman. “My fiancé is losing hope and struggling, and it breaks my heart.” “Illness of concern” As criminologists studying the health effects of imprisonment, we are imprisoned. I know that worries about the well-being of loved ones are common and serious stressors. Studies have shown that imprisoning a family member is detrimental to the psychological and physical health of parents, spouses, and children. The stress of knowing that imprisoned families can get sick with a deadly virus adds to the existing fear of being abused or assaulted in prison. Some families of the people we interviewed were certainly infected with COVID-19. A woman whose husband recently tested positive said it was difficult to contact a nurse to update her condition. “I’m worried about my illness,” she said. [Over 100,000 readers rely on The Conversation’s newsletter to understand the world. Sign up today.] Some people said they were trapped in the dark about family illness. “I didn’t even know he was infected with COVID-19 until a few weeks later,” said one woman of her husband. “He was blocked and couldn’t call home.” This article was republished by The Conversation, a non-profit news site aimed at sharing ideas from academic experts. It was. Authors: Alexander Testa at the University of Texas at San Antonio and Chantal Fahmy at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Read more: Prisons and prisons are the heart of the coronavirus, but were once designed to prevent the outbreak of illness. As the coronavirus rampages in prison, the ethical issues of crime and punishment become more compelling. National Institutes of Health and Justice Support Chantal Fahmy was funded by the National Institute of Justice’s Criminal Justice and Health Aging Research (ARCH) Network and the National Institute of Justice’s Department of Justice Statistics.