Excerpted From: Loveleen Singh, Further Punishing the Vulnerable: Why Home Confinement Is Superior to Solitary Confinement in a Pandemic Situation, 44 Thomas Jefferson Law Review 27 (Spring, 2022) (219 Footnotes) (Full Document)
In March of 2020, much of the world went into a lockdown after the emergence and rapid spread of what became known as the Coronavirus (COVID-19). In New York City when the COVID-19 cases skyrocketed, it was due to the city's “cheek-by-jowl density.” In India, the crowded and packed atmosphere also led to a massive surge in coronavirus cases throughout the country. Italy was another nation badly hit by the global coronavirus pandemic, because there was a lack of space in Italy for people to spread out. The global pandemic caused by the spread of COVID-19 was most detrimental in areas with high populations living close together. With this in mind, envision a concrete building confining hundreds of people in an enclosed space with no ability to leave or distance themselves. COVID-19 is prevalent inside the building and due to the close living arrangements, it is spreading quickly. This is the challenge our prison population was subjected to face because of each inmate's close proximity to one another. In a pandemic situation, “density is really an enemy.” Since COVID-19 is known to spread the fastest where there are large population centers, inmates in prison are placed in an inherently dangerous situation. Inmates in prison should not have to be subjected to a death sentence.
Part I of this Note will address the historical patterns of disease outbreaks and their impact on the prison system, with an exploration of COVID-19's current impact on our prison population along with their medical facilities in place. This Note will then discuss different kinds of confinements: solitary confinement, prison quarantine, and home confinement, with an emphasis on the constitutionality and harms of solitary confinement, along with its parallels to the current quarantine system in place. In reviewing the current legislation of the CARES Act, it will illustrate the lack of guidance and clarity regarding pandemic situations and prison populations. This Note will further delve into the CARES Act, which states the Director may lengthen the time of home confinement, giving rise to the Attorney General's memorandum. Attorney General's memorandum facilitates some guidance by providing discretionary factors for inmates to be eligible for early home confinement during COVID-19 but contains narrow issues with the age factor. Part II of the Note will discuss means of alleviating prison overcrowding by considering age, and will introduce the solution of home confinement. This part of the Note will further discuss the benefits of home confinement and how it poses the only practical solution to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, by discussing the parallels and risks of one potential illness, COVID-19, being replaced with another, psychological trauma, this Note will propose a solution focused on home confinement.
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This solution of home confinement provides a safer, more cost effective, and overall better outcome in comparison to placing inmates into prison quarantine. By avoiding a prison quarantine, there is less of a chance of inmates contracting a psychological illness from being placed into solitary confinement. By implementing at home confinement, whether an inmate is eligible or ineligible, inmates will benefit because the overcrowding would be lessened considerably. Reviewing and expanding the eligibility factors proposed by the Attorney General would allow the government to address these issues without increasing the cost to tax payers. Expanding home confinement eligibility should be the established standard; this protocol should be implemented, not only during the COVID-19 pandemic, but also for any possible future pandemics that may arise in the foreseeable future.