tv Washington Journal Lauren- Brooke Eisen CSPAN April 11, 2020 2:51pm-3:18pm EDT
eastern on c-span. > the brennan center where she leads the organization efforts to end mass incarceration. what are the latest numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths amongst the more than 2 million americans who are incarcerated in state, federal, and local prisons? 1300: there are about confirmed cases behind bars across the united states. the cook county jail in chicago, illinois is the largest known source of covid-19 infection. detainees least 51 and 150 staff members have tested positive just in that one jail. people78 incarcerated officers,rrectional
and medical officers at rikers island have also tested positive. we are seeing this disease spread very quickly behind bars. jails and prisons, as many know, our petri dishes for the transmission of covid-19. host: social distancing being described as the best way to combat coronavirus. can one social distance behind bars? guest: it is virtually impossible to do all of those we are doing in the community. trying to reduce the contagion of this disease. many of us are washing our hands for 20 seconds or 30 seconds. we are keeping six feet apart from our neighbors on the street. we are, if we are lucky enough to have masks, walking around with masks. but soap, hand sanitizer, behind bars individuals are nked, dormitory
style rooms, sharing toilets, sinks that have 20 or 30 beds. impossible and in some jails and prisons, specifically alabama and mississippi, the hygiene conditions are very lacking. in fact, and mississippi health department report from this past summer found dozens of broken sinks, toilets, soap dispensers with no soap. you can imagine it is virtually impossible for those behind bars to protect themselves from covid-19. host: talking about coronavirus in the prison system, a special line this morning for those who have family members in the prison system -- (202-748-8002). eastern or central time zone, (202-748-8000). mountain or pacific, (202-748-8001).
you can start calling in for lauren-brooke eisen of the brennan center. you talked about the cook county jail system and new york specifically. what is being done to help combat infections and keep the prisoner safe? guest: the brennan center for justice has called on governors of all states to use their power and executive authority to release vulnerable people behind bars who do not pose a public safety risk. we know that about 40% of people behind bars in the unitedbars wc safety risk. states suffer from some kind of medical condition such as asthma or diabetes which makes them very vulnerable not only to getting sick but from dying of covid-19 because they are so vulnerable. they have these underlying health conditions. what is happening in new york city, in chicago, is that the public health officials and
medical teams that work in these deals are doing the best they can -- jails are doing the best they can to quarantine those who are sick. however, it is ver difficult. jails and prisons are not places where you can protect easily those who are sick from something like covid-19. the medical staff at these facilities are doing the best they can but they do not even have the personal protective equipment they need. the correction officers do not have personal protective equipment to make sure they need to make sure they are safe. this is a problem not only for those incarcerated but for those who work in these facilities. host: we have numbers on this at this point on how many have been released? guest: we have some numbers. we are starting to see some releases. we are seeing some governors who are taking this seriously, who
are looking at their executive authority. pennsylvania use executive authority and ask people be released early. in california, the governor has ordered 3500 people be released from prisons across the state. governor cuomo has promised to release almost 1100 people in prison for a technical violation , was with public defenders, and they are not saying that is happening. somebody in new york city died jailweek and he was in because of a technical violation of his parole. we have to work with our jails,rs, directors of to make sure more people are released from our prison systems. those who are elderly, sick,
contractingwho are covid-19 behind bars. we are going to see this get worse in our jails and prisons and what is happening in new york city and cook county certainly illustrate how dangerous this can be for those in close confinement. we have seen it in nursing homes, cruise ships, we are starting to see it in jails and prisons. host: you said you want people who do not pose a public safety risk to be released. how do you determine whether they pose a safety risk when they get to the outside? guest: the brennan center for justice issued a report a couple years ago where we found 39% in our state and local prisons did not need to be there when it comes to public safety. that is a very conservative estimate and that does not include people who are in jail. so many of the people in our jails are simply there because they are too poor to pay bail.
these are not people who are a danger to society. these are people who cannot pay bail or bond. there stuck behind, bars pretrial, waiting for a court date. do notmajority simply have to be there when it comes to public safety. we know that so many of the people in our state prisons and federal prisons are 60 or older and there is so much research indicating those behind bars who are 60 years or older when released have incredibly low rate. we are not talking about a safety threat but a death sentence for those sitting behind bars who do not need to be there. they are sitting ducks for this coronavirus. host: let's chat with a few colors. this is bill out of pennsylvania. caller: good morning. happy easter and thank you for
taking my call. they were note if a threat to society, they would not be in prison in the first place. i think it is another chance for liberals to seize the opportunity -- prisons are pretty much quarantined in the first place. you can limit visitors, check the officers coming in, they are probably safer than the rest of -- public and i feel like california wants to release people, they want to take our second amendment away and tell us we are safe. worryingtired of them more about people who break the law than americans who follow the law and do the right thing. we are just getting real tired of as americans. host: lauren-brooke eisen. guest: the united states leads the world as the number one incarcerated. we have less than 5% of the
global population yet we have nearly 25% of the world's prisoners across 6000 prisons and jails in the united states. correctional facilities are crowded, unsanitary, right now a handful of states and prisons in the federal system -- [no audio] this was a very specific policy decision to rack up 2.2 million people and with the brennan center have done research for many years all across the country looking at who is incarcerated. the brennan center published a report a couple years ago
finding incarceration does not make us safer. are livingn 2020 we in the safest times in the united states. in 1991 inmes peaked the united states. today, we have incredibly safe communities with very low crime rates except for a couple of pockets across the country. we know that incarceration does make people more criminally and client. they are separated from families , cannot get a job, and communities have been devastated. it increases intergenerational poverty. it is a failed social policy and what is happening right now in our jails and prisons, with so many people testing positive,
shows is what a failed policy it was. host: to florida, this is james on the line for those who have a family member in the prison system. us?s, are you with we will go to cheryl in provo, utah on the same line. caller: good morning. can you hear me? host: yes. caller: i am calling to validate what your guest is saying. my son has been exposed to the andnavirus by his roommate even though they moved his --ake out, it creates because they cannot move about even though he is in a halfway house, they are locked down. they have to associate with all of these other people who have been infected with coronavirus. host: has there been any
discussion in utah about allowing those folks to leave the halfway houses early or come home and be with family? caller: i watched the news all the time and i have not seen one thing said about it. i am going to be calling the governor's office and seeing if i can suggest to them -- there is a place my son could come out and we would bond him or whatever it would take to be able to leave the environment. i want to say one other thing if it's all right? host: go ahead. caller: they are prisoners, they cannot get a job, and yet they are requiring they pay for their go anddy so they can it's $200 for each test. a polygraph or whatever it is
and they want to cause -- the prisoners would have to pay for it to prove they are innocent. that they were not involved in other crimes. here he is, he is not able to him, and they are requiring to go in debt for a test they proveo prove, so he can he has not committed crimes in other situations. i am thinking, our system is wrong. what we have got as a punishment system instead of a correction. host: thank you for sharing. guest: i think what you're caller said is important. we have a punishment system, not a correction system. we know that in many prisons across the country, there is very little opportunity to participate and access
education, higher learning, postsecondary education. a lot of these programs cost incarcerated people money. they are expensive and if one of the purposes of punishment israel billing presentation, we are utterly failing -- punishment is rehabilitation, we are utterly failing. accounts are relevant to this discussion. they are advocating that states and countries waive medical co-pays. $5 or more just to see a doctor. waived medicale o-pays not just for those who have respiratory
illness, but those who have to see their doctor. we are glad to see that but we have to do more. on waivingust focus medical fees. we have got to get more of these people out of our jails and prisons. in situations where we have so many jails, so many prisons, that are filled with people living in the same cells -- in alabama, the prisons are at capacity and beyond capacity. these are not safe conditions. why we need those correctional officials to waive medical co-pays -- you have to pay for hygiene products behind bars -- but we need to not only focus on improving the conditions behind bars but we have got to get thousands out. center.org if you want to check out their website. lauren-brooke eisen serves as
the program director. taking your phone calls for the next 10 minutes. tyrone is on the line for those who have a family member in the prison system out of texas. good morning. caller: good morning. host: go ahead with your question or comment. caller: are they going to release them out here? host: are they going to let them out? guest: we see progress already. the governor of colorado signed an executive order that places a moratorium on new prison intakes. we have seen a number of states provide similar guidance to their judges, judiciary, to their court. for those people who have already been sentenced but have not started to serve their sentence behind bars, we are encouraging states -- and we see some progress -- that those people do not need to start their sentence and have a public
health courts behind -- health crisis behind bars. jerseyvania and new invoke executive power to establish processes that would offer some individuals convicted of nonviolent crimes a temporary reprieve of their sentences but placing them under house arrest. in kentucky, the governor recently signed an executive order that would release nearly 900 people detained in state prisons and just this past week, ohio's governor is recommending almost 140 people incarcerated in minimum security prisons be released by the end of the week. this is not enough. we need every governor in every state in the united states to use their executive authority, to use their clemency powers, to release more people.
for example, in alabama, nobody has tested positive yet that we isons yetlabama pr there was a leaked memo that there could be a health disaster and we know the parole board is not doing as much as it can to ensure people are released from prison. we need parole boards across the country to work with the department of corrections, to work with other stakeholders, government officials, to engage in remote parole hearings that we can release more people from prison who should not be there who are vulnerable. host: how do believe the leadership has been from attorney general barr? guest: the attorney general is looking at releasing an increasing number of individuals to home confinement, focusing on
individuals with underlying health problems, who are elderly but not enough has been done. the brennan center is working on a letter right now to send to the attorney general where we are going to ask the attorney general to release more people from federal prison in addition to providing guidance to the states. the attorney general is in a unique position where they can their colleagues letters asking they do more. that they not only improve conditions behind bars but relax medical co-pays, and sure -- ensure protective equipment is given to correctional staff and the attorney general can do more to lead the country. lead not only at the federal bureau of prisons level but the state level. prioritizestates to
releasing individuals who do not need to be there. host: linda has a family member in the prison system out of marysville, tennessee. good morning. caller: good morning. host: go ahead, linda. caller: i don't know if i have a question or comment but where my son is being held, it is a privately owned facility. being givenare not the ppe but it has been donated tennesseeepartment corrections. they are not be given to the inmates. are being given to the ceos. masksmates are making from t-shirts and being written up and fined hundreds of dollars for making their own ppe. i mean, there is undocumented
cases but as of yesterday, two of the prisons in tennessee had the national guard mandating testing only for the staff. they sat them in line for hours outside, tested them, and released them back into the shift they had to work instead of waiting. is really nothat doing what they need to be doing down here. host: thank you for the call. lauren-brooke eisen. guest: your caller mentioned incarcerated people do not have personal protective equipment and that is the case across the country. there is a shortage of masks, gowns, hand sanitizer, and it is not only incarcerated people behind bars. in many jurisdictions the correction officers do not have access to this equipment.
change in our country but we are seeing first responders, doctors, nurses do not have access to personal protective book women. what we are seeing -- personal protective equipment. what we are seeing is we do not have the infrastructure to protect us from a infectious disease whether it is behind bars, and hospitals across the country. related to that, we have started to see at least a dozen states their, and requiring, incarcerated population to make personal protective equipment behind bars. in texas where incarcerated peoples earn no money, they are making gowns for first responders. in 11 or 12 other states, individuals are required to make masks, gowns, other personal
protective equipment. in new york, incarcerated workers are making hand sanitizer. the irony is that in new york state, and a lot of states across the country, hand sanitizer is contraband. individuals behind bars are not allowed access because of the high alcohol content. what is happening truly illustrates that mass incarceration is a failed social policy at so many levels. for years at the brennan center, ourave advocated to reduce correctional system. i hope this will bring about a rethinking about who we can keep away. host: time for maybe one more call. this is naomi in spring hill, florida for those with family members in the prison system. go ahead. caller: hi.
host: what is your question? --ler: my son was released andas in missouri prison they moved into the kansas prison. but hefinally released wanted to come down here to florida to live with me. not -- they made a that he wassons why violent -- he is not a bit violent. he was so young when they put him in prison. i wonder why he cannot come to
florida and be here with me so i can help it. host: thank you for the call. i will give you the final minute or so. hear: i couldn't quite everything she said but i think she was talking about a loved one who is not violent to release more vulnerable people who do not need to be behind bars. we really hope that once this public health crisis is over, we will truly change how we approach punishment, incarceration, rehabilitation and our country.
country. many of them will likely get sick and die of covid-19 and our governors and our state departments of correction need to work together and do more to release thousands of people behind bars who are there today who can be saved from contracting covid-19 if we act quickly. thewashington journal continue. chriswe are joined by currie. same days ago, on the coronavirus was declared a pandemic, you are on capitol hill testifying about preparedness for bio defense. guest: what we were talking