Report gives Indiana, Kentucky state prisons failing grades in pandemic response

Coronavirus Watch

(WEHT) As some county jails in the Tri-State deal with COVID-19 outbreaks among inmates and jail workers, a report from a criminal justice think tank says state run prisons in Indiana and Kentucky are failing in their pandemic response.

State records show nearly 8,000 Kentucky inmates, and nearly 4,000 Indiana inmates, tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic started.

“We expected that agencies were going to do everything in their power to protect people,” said Wanda Bertram of the Prison Policy Initiative.

A report from the group, which focuses on mass incarceration, gave Indiana and Kentucky an F for their pandemic response in prisons. Illinois got a D. 42 of 50 states got failing grades. The report did not look at jails run by counties. Bertram says state run prisons nationwide could have done more to reduce cases, such as releasing or not jailing those who violated parole or probation, or did other low level offenses.

“Maybe you were required to maintain employment as a condition of your probation, but you lost your job during the pandemic. It’s, you know, as a way, among the different ways to reduce prison populations to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus,” Bertram explained.

Last year, Kentucky released more than 1,800 inmates early, but they were also cited for having one of the highest infection rates of inmates.

In recent weeks, county jails in Hopkins, Henderson and other county jails reported more COVID-19 cases.

“COVID has been very challenging, you know, this last year and a half to two years,” said Perry County Sheriff Alan Malone.

He says his jail hasn’t seen the type of outbreaks others have. He adds county jails like his have done all they can, such as mask requirements for inmates, to keep the virus out.

“There is no foolproof on how to stop the jails from being COVID free, it’s not just going to happen, we do what we can, we put a lot of safety precautions,” he said.

(This story was originally published on September 2, 2021)

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