The COVID-19 Threat In MD Prisons: Three Perspectives | WYPR

The COVID-19 Threat In MD Prisons: Three Perspectives

Apr 22, 2020

Credit Facebook.com/PG Co. Corrections Dept.

The COVID-19 pandemic poses a particular threat to people in prison -- both inmates and correctional officers.   The basic tenets of virus mitigation -- social distancing and frequent hand washing -- aren’t possible, and the number of older inmates is substantial.  Roughly 12 percent of the nation’s 2.3 million inmates are over the age of 55.

Last Sunday, Governor Larry Hogan issued an executive order that will accelerate the release of inmates who meet certain criteria, such as those who are already scheduled to be released within the next four months.   It came after weeks of urgent appeals by health experts and human rights advocates.

There are about 18,400 people currently in custody in correctional facilities in MD.  It’s estimated that the Governor’s executive order will result in the release of about 800 of them.  Is that enough to slow the spread of COVID 19 among this very vulnerable population?

Today, Tom talks first with Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who has been a vocal advocate for the expedited release of prisoners.  We join her by phone at her home office in Baltimore.

Next, Tom is joined on the line by Tammie Owens, the president of the Prince George's Correctional Officers Association, the union that represents the corrections staff at the County Corrections Center in Upper Marlboro. Lt. Owens' union was one of the signers of a recent letter to Governor Hogan urging him to protect the staff and inmates in the prison system.

Then, Tom welcomes Leonard Rubenstein, a lawyer with the Center for Public Health and Human Rights at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public HealthRubenstein organized a collective letter to Governor Hogan in late March, and again last week, on behalf of 200 faculty at Johns Hopkins, about the urgent need to address the problems in MD prisons. The appeal raises the fundamental question: what do we owe people who are incarcerated when it comes to protecting their health?

Two reminders about two important pieces of mail you need to make sure you submit.  If you’re a voter in the 7th Congressional District, you can mail your ballot in the special election to choose a successor to the late Elijah Cummings any time before next Tuesday, April 28th.  Democrat and former Congressman Kweisi Mfume is running against former Fox news analyst Kimberly Klacik.  Again, the deadline to postmark your ballot is next Tuesday, April 28th

And don’t forget to complete your 2020 Census form.  When this pandemic is over, we need to be sure that everyone is counted so that our area receives the level of support that is appropriate for our population.  Every one of us has a duty to fill out the form, on-line, or on paper, to be sure we are all counted.

We also want to acknowledge that today is the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day, which marked the beginning of the modern environmental movement.  After Earth Day in 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency was established, and several important environmental laws were passed in the years that followed.

Today, the Environmental Integrity Project is releasing a new report today on the health of the Chesapeake Bay, focusing on the poultry industry.  Here's a link to that report.