As COVID-19 continues to spread within Wyoming communities, we're urging state officials to heed public health experts’ advice and immediately develop an evidence-based, proactive plan for the prevention and management of COVID-19 in Wyoming’s jails, detention centers, prisons, ICE facilities and detainee transportation.
People who are incarcerated are highly vulnerable to outbreaks of contagious illnesses like the coronavirus. Once a contagious illness enters, conditions in correctional facilities are highly conducive to it spreading. People in prisons and jails live in close proximity to each other. Many are housed in large dormitories, sharing the same space. Even where people are housed in cells, the ventilation is often inadequate. People who are incarcerated are also often denied adequate soap and cleaning supplies, making infection control nearly impossible.
On March 24, 2020 we issued a letter to Gov. Mark Gordon and members of his staff, the Wyoming Department of Corrections, all county jails, the state penitentiary, the Wyoming Honor Conservation Camp and Wyoming Boot Camp, the Wyoming Honor Farm, the Wyoming Medium Correctional Institution and the Wyoming Women’s Center.
We're asking that officials respond to recommendations put forth by public health experts, specifically calling for officials in the state’s criminal legal system to work collaboratively with the Wyoming Department of Health to address screening and testing of people in custody, housing of people exposed to the coronavirus, access to treatment and more. Additionally, we're calling for Immigration Customs Enforcement to cease community sweeps, raids and transportation of detainees at the risk of spreading COVID-19.
Public health experts recognize that there is a heightened risk of infection for people who are involved in the criminal legal system. From policing, prosecution and pretrial hearings to sentencing, confinement, and release, every aspect of the system must come under intense scrutiny for how it responds to this national public health crisis.
Public health experts and groups such as Dr. Gregg Gonsalves, doctors working in New York City Hospitals, Dr. Marc Stern, Dr. Oluwadamilola T. Oladeru and Adam Beckman, Dr. Anne Spaulding, Homer Venters, and Josiah Rich have all clearly stated that preventing the harm inflicted by SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 can become immensely more difficult for people involved in the criminal legal system. By following the recommendations outlined in the ACLU’s letter, state and local officials can create a culture in which transparency, safety, and the health of all people is the paramount concern.