Could Coronavirus Cause a National Prison Lockdown? | Healthiest Communities | US News
As coronavirus races across the country, staffing challenges are particularly complicated in the nation’s jails and prisons, where conditions create a tinderbox for contagion. There is no such thing as teleworking for a correctional officer tasked with guarding inmates.
Union leaders for the Council of Prison Locals worry that existing low staffing levels in federal detention centers and prisons — which have required teachers and other social workers to fill in for correctional officers in the past — will exacerbate the impact of losing staff members to quarantines for coronavirus infections.
The federal prison system, which houses nearly 175,000 inmates, represents only a fraction of the overall prison and jail complex in the United States. More than 2.2 million people throughout the country are estimated to be behind bars. Though small by comparison, the federal system sheds light on issues many state, county and local officials are grappling with now. Because the facilities are typically dense and crowded, they could become prime breeding grounds for the highly contagious coronavirus.