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The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have deemed the Coronavirus(COVID -19) a world pandemic, however, some of the most vulnerable across the United States are in the Correctional System.
Police Officers, Deputy Sheriffs and Probation, Parole, Immigration, and Juvenile/Adult Detention/Correction Officers, along with Support Staff are losing their lives to this deadly virus. Inside our Institutions, COVID -19 is killing inmates and detainees.
We are amid unprecedented times! “Public health experts have called prisons and jails tinderboxes for outbreaks.” Creating a social distancing atmosphere is an uphill task in many correctional facilities because of population size. Despite the risk, correctional professionals bravely wear the uniform to face the unseen dangers of COVID -19 while keeping correctional facilities
safe and secure.
The National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice is concerned with “all” frontline professionals who lose their lives because they have inadequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) or worse, none at all. Corrections staff and first responders are exposed at higher levels and are at higher risk of infection; they are required to serve in close proximity with those who are asymptomatic and those who are confirmed for COVID -19. The lack of PPE within correctional institutions is a national public safety issue, yet there has been little national attention to the need for adequate safety precautions to protect officers, staff, and incarcerated residents. Stopping the spread is impossible when staff leave work to return to their homes and communities, unaware that they may be spreading the virus.
Through extensive research, WHO and CDC have determined 70% of those dying from COVID -19 are African Americans. Statistics reflect heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and coronary disease are underlying factors among many Correctional Professionals, mainly African Americans. African Americans make up only 14% of the U.S. population; however, as a result of mass incarceration, 40% of the incarcerated residents in jails and prisons across the nation are African Americans.
These statistics alone increase the need to provide PPE to the most vulnerable to prevent the spread of COVID -19 and decrease the mortality rate.
In New York City, home to one of the largest correctional facilities in the world, correction officers had to sue the city for protective gear and cleaning supplies, arguing it has failed to protect the officers working in city jails. This is unacceptable!
The National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice support and demand Personal Protective Equipment (such as masks,gloves, and protective headgear) be provided to correctional staff, civilian staff, and incarcerated residents. We also believe that there must be a national conversation about hazardous pay. Equality mandates higher compensation for correctional staff and compassion demands that we protect those on the frontline.
Agencies must continue to monitor and encourage everyone to take the necessary safety precautions to prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID -19. We, the National Associations of Blacks in Criminal Justice will continue to pray for the health and safety of our Nation and the fast and complete recovery of those stricken with COVID -19.
Established in 1974, the National Association of Blacks in Criminal (NABCJ) is a non-partisan, nonprofit association of criminal justice professionals, students and community leaders dedicated to improving the administration of justice. For more information, visit www.nabcj.org