NEW YORK, July 31, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- COVID-19 has had a profound effect on the criminal justice system. Before this year, no one would have considered how the prison population would be affected by a pandemic. Most prisons do not have the most ideal health conditions, and it's easy enough for the flu to spread. It isn't surprising that the Coronavirus, which is much more contagious and deadly, is especially dangerous for the incarcerated.
Many jails realized this once the virus began to spread, and this led many jails to reduce their population by over 30%. Most state prisons reduced their population by an average of 5%. Even this figure was mostly due to their refusal to admit new prisoners. Many prosecutors in the United States and internationally are refusing to charge people for low-level and nonviolent offences to avoid raising the already-high prison population.
Despite this, there are some groups still frequently being admitted to jails and prisons. In one example, earlier this month three leaders from Shincheonji church were jailed to await charges of "murder by willful negligence." They were not able to provide authorities with a complete member list for contact tracing immediately after the outbreak at their church, and received blame for the virus's spread. They alleged that the prison guards mocked them, saying to eat food through their masks so they don't spread the virus farther.
In China, the ethnic minority known as the Uyghurs, which is predominantly Muslim in religion, has faced considerable discrimination. Since 2016, many Uyghurs and other minorities have been held in "re-education camps" throughout China. It is estimated that approximately 1 million total are being held, although the government has censored any such mention of such camps from the country's search engines and social media. According to human rights groups, an outbreak amongst the Uyghurs, which is likely to have already happened, would be disastrous. Like other prisons and internment camps, these are especially dangerous locations in terms of Coronavirus spread.
Prisons are extremely susceptible to the spread of the Coronavirus. And so, the many prisoners throughout the world, many of whom may be imprisoned unjustly, must endure the worst of the virus. Whether or not they deserve to be there, we hope their dignity is not taken from them and they are allowed to carry out their rights like any other person.
The Persecuted is a news source dedicated to the factual research and analysis of human rights violations. For more information, visit thepersecuted.org.
SOURCE The Persecuted