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Advocates Call for Medical Parole to Avoid 'Unintentional Death Sentences' as Covid-19 Ravages US Prisons

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/12/29/advocates-call-medical-parole-avoid-unintentional-death-sentences-covid-19-ravages


So Xavier Becerra’s not as progressive as everyone thinks.

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Not only are 1/5th, 20% of inmates infected with COVID, studies increasingly show at least 20% of USA’s total caseload probably originated behind bars.

The failure to meaningfully decarcerate jails and prisons has also led to increased cases in the community as staff travel between work and their home communities on a daily basis. Between California, Florida and Texas, mass incarceration contributed to a quarter million new COVID cases — or 20 percent of new cases in these states — from May 1 to August 1. Despite its much-touted release of 22,148 people from prisons, the Prison Policy Initiative estimated that California’s incarceration alone contributed 113,969 COVID cases (or 291 cases per 100,000 residents).


I’m writing, as I’ve mentioned once or twice, just across the Bay from the COVID cooker they call San Quentin State Prison. (What’s the call? Free them all!)

A brief history of USA COVID-19 cases (latest CDC numbers):

> WEEK    9 WEEKS              CASES
>         ENDING          NEW       TOTAL
>   9.  02/17/2020          13          13
>  18.  04/20/2020     776,080     776,093
>  27.  06/22/2020   1,526,209   2,302,302
>  36.  08/24/2020   3,413,265   5,715,567
>  45.  10/26/2020   2,965,044   8,680,611
>  54.  12/28/2020  10,552,232  19,232,843
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U.S. prison philosophy has two main tenets:

  1. Inflict as much vengeance as is physically imaginable. When the federal government executes someone, the victims of the crime often spend the rest of their lives wishing for a far more horrendous “do-over”, for a more vindictive way of killing the guy, far slower, with more physical pain and mental anguish. The same need for vengeance goes with impossibly long prison sentences. 99 years simply isn’t going to happen. Five consecutive life sentences can only be achieved if you believe in reincarnation. Prison conditions are abominable. People go mad in solitary.

  2. Every once in a while somebody asks, “Can we save money?” Prisons cheap out on the food.

Most democracies have a philosophy of seeking eventual reconciliation between the offender and the offended community. Many countries treat their prisoners as people with sometimes-correctable illnesses. Alcoholism can be cleaned up sometimes. Pedophiles can be taught at least not to act on their urges to see toddlers as objects of romance. Lots of gangbangers get old and don’t want to run in the street any more - maybe an honest job and a lover adds up to a more comfortable life.

Now, California offers convicts three days off their sentence for every day that they fight fires. Well, we can offer the cons three days off their sentence just for each day of being outside of the prison in some room, with a TV. The cons would like it. We wouldn’t give the guards the covid. Why not?


I like most of your comment but I do have some hesitation on the success of rehabilitation with regards to some offenders more than others. And I believe that it is a serious omission of the state NOT having stronger community support available to those on parole plus many offenders need to be monitored and kept on rehabilitation programs long term.
Other countries have less draconian vindictive punitive carceral systems and promote rehabilitation in their programs, in other words more effective human practices which do not focus on profit from abuse.


I’d like to see a cite or two for that. Alinsky, who spent his early years doing sociology in prisons, found that the time from sentence to execution was long enough that the prison death-row staff came to know the condemned as a human, not a caricature. And so when execution day rolled around, everyone from the warden on down had to get half-smashed in order to go through with it.

Because of our ignorant horror, we usually fail to distinguish between actual pedophiles—people who have had the excruciatingly bad luck to be sexually attracted to young children—and sexual predators who target children.

We treat them much the same when we shouldn’t, since who we’re attracted to is not a choice, though acting out is and sexual predation absolutely is.

If we allowed genuine (non-predatory) pedophiles to have “clean” (no actual children involved) child porn without having to go to prison for it, they could live their lives like anyone else because, apart from their particular sexuality, they are like anyone else. But we don’t, because we don’t want to see them as being ordinary.

Not a mention in this article about prisons:


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They used to try to educate convicts so they could get jobs after their incarceration, some even earned degrees while behind bars, is that gone?