Despite an order barring volunteers and visitors in March, Ohio’s Pickaway Correctional Facility registered its first coronavirus case in April. The implosion of the virus in the detention center highlighted the dangers of the nation’s notoriously overcrowded and unsanitary prison systems, particularly regarding the rapid spread of infections. Within a week, 17 workers and 23 inmates in the prison had contracted the deadly virus, with a 66-year prisoner, Charles Viney Jr., dying hours after testing positive (Standifer and Sellers). A month later, over 1,500 of the detainees and 81 employees were infected (Hutchison). At the end of May, 35 inmates had succumbed to Covid-19 complications (Standifer and Sellers). Saloner et al. note that the number of coronavirus infections in U.S. correctional facilities grew at a daily average of 8.3% compared to 3.4% in the general population (603). Although America’s prison authorities have contemplated mass releases to prevent a further implosion of the virus, the country’s retributive justice system aggravated the inmates’ living conditions and increased their susceptibility to illnesses.
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Pickaway Correctional Institution is a mixed detention facility which houses minimum and medium custody offenders. Although the prison holds an estimated 2,000 inmates, the unsanitary conditions, inadequate inmate healthcare infrastructure, and overcrowding exemplify the multiple challenges facing the United States’ jail and prison system. Notably, the country’s criminal legal system applies a number of actions, such as the utilization of death penalty, which reflect a retributionist inclination. This implies that penalties for the various offences, mainly prison terms, are issued because the culprit is deemed to deserve punishment, and not because the individual or the society will benefit from the imposed sentence. Hanna argues that while punitive policies may reduce crime levels, the social impacts associated with burgeoning prison population are detrimental and often result in a spike in offending (43). Therefore, this philosophy of America’s criminal justice system has immensely contributed to aggravating the prisons’ living conditions and the subsequent susceptibility of inmates and workers to infectious diseases.
Additionally, the United States has enacted a series of policy and sentencing changes, which have progressively escalated criminal justice sanctions. For instance, the abolition of discretionary parole, mandatory minimum sentences, and habitual offender laws imply a decline in the rehabilitative efforts and a corresponding increase in incarceration rates (Corleto 113). The retributive approaches heavily rely on punishment and disregard any extenuating factors or circumstances, ultimately resulting in shrinking the entire society’s chances for happiness. In this regard, applying a utilitarian strategy in the justice system would significantly improve the correctional facilities’ general conditions, reduce overcrowding, and produce the most beneficial effects for the society (Corleto 113). By integrating the utilitarian value concept of happiness and unconventional correctional approaches, such as restoration and rehabilitation, the convicts’ and society’s wellbeing would improve, resulting in reduced crime rates, and decongest the Pickaway Correctional Institution.
Coronavirus outbreak has affected almost every sphere of life and resulting in far-reaching changes. Detention and correctional facilities have been impacted severely, with workers and prisoners in these centers recording disproportionately higher infections and fatalities than the general population. The pandemic has resulted in a significant improvement in the overall working and living conditions for prisoners and employees. For instance, enhanced sanitation, decongestion, and additional investment in prisons’ healthcare infrastructure have significantly upgraded the state of Pickaway Correctional Facility. Therefore, coronavirus has led to positive outcomes in prisons, which have improved the living and working conditions of workers and detainees in this center.
The coronavirus pandemic has uncovered the disturbing truths about America’s prison system. The institutions face numerous challenges aggravated by poorly developed punishment policies and the retributive philosophical underpinning. However, coronavirus has resulted in the general improvement of the incarceration centers through decongestion, upgrading of healthcare infrastructure, and enhancing sanitation. Integrating utilitarian approaches in the criminal justice system would ultimately yield the greatest benefits to the inmates, prison employees, and society.
Corleto, Daisy. “Prison Rehabilitation: The Sociological, Physiological, and Psychological Effects of Animal-Assisted Interventions.” Themis: Research Journal of Justice Studies and Forensic Science, vol. 6, no. 8, 2018, pp. 111−131.
Hanna, Peter. “Human Cattle: Prison Overpopulation and the Political Economy of Mass Incarceration.” Themis: Research Journal of Justice Studies and Forensic Science: vol. 4, no. 3, 2016, pp. 40−63.
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Hutchison, Bill. “COVID-19 Outbreak Infecting Over 500 Prisoners May Have Come from Staff: Medical Director.” ABC News, 2020, Web.
Saloner, Brendan, et al. “COVID-19 Cases and Deaths in Federal and State Prisons.” JAMA, vol. 324, no. 6, 2020, pp. 602−603.
Standifer, Cid, and Frances Stead Sellers. “Prison and Jails Have Become a ‘Public Health Threat’ During the Pandemic, Advocates Say.” The Washington Post, 2020, Web.