By Andrea C. Armstrong
COVID-19 is not the first pandemic within prisons. Modern history is littered with examples of disease outbreaks in carceral spaces, including tuberculosis, influenza, and MRSA. Like these earlier carceral pandemics, the over 620,000 COVID-19 infections and 3,100 related deaths among incarcerated individuals to date simply expose how U.S. health law and policy fails to protect people in custody.
Only incarcerated people have a constitutional right to healthcare in the United States. That right, however, is rendered toothless when supplied through a punitive system that lacks meaningful standards and robust oversight.
Here is what we know — despite the secrecy that shields penal institutions — about carceral health care.