PANDEMIC IN OUR PRISONS
By Sarah Betancourt
April 23, 2020
State Rep. Mindy Domb has filed a bill that would require the collection, disclosure, and reporting of COVID-19 data in correctional settings across Massachusetts.
The measure would require daily coronavirus information reporting to the Department of Public Health from all correctional institutions in the state, including the Department of Correction and county jails.
“Data is an important weapon in the pandemic. It allows us to see who’s affected, clinical outcomes, access to testing,” Domb said. The Amherst Democrat added that testing can also highlight when certain populations are disproportionately impacted by the virus, and “lead to greater understanding of environmental factors in viral transmission or course of illness.” Required information would include the number of tests at each facility, number of positive results, prisoner deaths attributed to COVID-19, and the number of prisoners subject to COVID-19 quarantine who are being monitored.
Advocacy group Prisoners’ Legal Services has pushed for the release of incarcerated people, saying that more will fall ill if they’re kept in tight quarters. The bill is a welcome addition to their tool kit for getting to that goal.
“It’s always helpful to have transparency in reporting data.” said Executive Director Lizz Matos of Domb’s bill. “Especially when we’re dealing with people’s health and safety, and when people are dying.”