This morning, SCHR sent a follow-up letter to the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC) and the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole (GBPP). The first letter — sent on March 13th — asked the GDC and the GBPP to implement a number of measures to reduce virus transmission and potential loss of life, including, but not limited to the following:
- Comply with CDC, Georgia Department of Public Health, and NCCHC Guidelines;
- Eliminate co-pays; ensure access to soap, tissue, cleaning/sanitizing products, and clean laundry:
- Ensure transparency in communications with family members and the public;
- Implement medical quarantine where appropriate; implement an emergency staffing plan;
- Create a list of people to prioritize for possible release; review, on an expedited basis, the cases of elderly and infirm prisoners, in order to identify who among them could be released, consistent with public safety.
When the initial letter was sent, there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in any Georgia prisons, jails, or transitional centers. Statewide, there were 42 confirmed cases. As of the evening of Sunday, March 29, the state of Georgia has over 2,600 confirmed cases (multiple within its prisons and jails) and at least 83 deaths — including an incarcerated person at Lee State Prison.
SCHR is also worried about people living in Transitional Centers. As of March 1, 2020, there are 2,280 people in Transitional Centers (TCs), and at least 91 are over the age of 60. These people are at a higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 because of the work release requirement, which requires them to work in communities outside of the transitional centers. Worse, the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in TCs is higher than in other GDC facilities because many participants are returning from potentially infected communities to live with hundreds of others who could have been exposed to the virus in closely confined spaces. Moreover, people in these programs must use public transportation in order to get to work, and work in closely confined spaces such as poultry plants and warehouses.
SCHR is urging the Parole Board to consider the immediate release of people held at the fifteen TCs in a manner consistent with the health and safety of Georgia communities. People over the age of 60, those with underlying health conditions, and those who have completed most of the program requirements should be considered for immediate release, and the Parole Board should provide a release date.
Read the letter above, or here.