Decarceration Could Lead to Decrease of Outbreaks

The results of a new study show that stopping jailing individuals may be linked to benefits to community-wide and global public health.

High incarceration rates in the United States have led to an increased risk of outbreaks, and decarceration is the best way to combat this, the results of a new study from French National Centre for Scientific Research, Northwestern Medicine, and the Toulouse School of Economics show.

“If we can immediately stop jailing people for minor alleged offenses and begin building a national decarceration program to end mass incarceration, these changes will protect us from COVID-19 now and will also benefit long-term US public health and pandemic preparedness,” Eric Reinhart, MD, resident physician in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said in a statement.

“Pandemic-era decarceration wasn't associated just with benefits for people who were released but also for everyone in the community,” he said. “No study has ever been able to show this before, largely because we haven't previously seen a real-world scenario with such sudden large-scale decarceration along with a well-documented means, like Covid-19 cases, to trace its implications for communities."

This study is the first linked to mass incarceration and pandemic vulnerability and international biosecurity.

Investigators found that there is a 55% weekly turnover rate in US jail populations, so individuals are detained in cramped spaces, which increases the chance of becoming infected with COVID-19, then released back into the community shortly after, which could cause an increase spread of the virus.

This study was the first to find that decarceration could be linked with community-wide public health benefits, but it also helps to decrease the threat to global public health, according to the statement.

Reference

High incarceration rates fuel COVID-19 spread and undermine US public safety, study finds. ScienceDaily. News release. September 2, 2021. Accessed September 3, 2021. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/09/210902125119.htm