COVID-19 in Pennsylvania Prisons: A Scary Situation
Movies and television do a good job of scaring people about what life is like in jails and prisons, from the awful food to the lack of privacy to abuse and violence at the hands of prison guards and other inmates. Perhaps a police officer even spoke at an assembly at your school, telling stories about the terrible things that can happen in prison, in order to scare you out of breaking the law. The COVID-19 pandemic is yet another reason to want to avoid being in prison; it is almost impossible to maintain social distancing, and individual inmates have limited opportunities to take matters of infection control into their own hands. It isn’t as if you get to stockpile hand sanitizer or wipe down your groceries before cooking your own meals. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, there were plenty of compelling reasons why locking someone away for an extended period because of a non-violence offense is neither productive nor humane, but this is especially true now that institutionalized people, including inmates in jails and prisons, are at especially high risk of contracting the novel coronavirus. Therefore, if you are facing charges for an offense punishable by incarceration, it is essential to work with a Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyer.
COVID-19 and Compassionate Release
People incarcerated in jails and prisons have the right to receive medically necessary treatment. They also have the right to living conditions which are adequate to maintain health. In some cases, prisoners who are in an especially vulnerable state of health are released earlier than they would otherwise have been eligible for parole; this is known as compassionate release. In April, Gov. Tom Wolf signed an executive order calling for the release of 1,500 people from prisons across the state. All of the people released under the executive order had pre-existing health conditions that put them at high risk of serious illness or death if they contracted the novel coronavirus, all were serving sentences for non-violent offenses, and all were within a year of completing their sentences. Meanwhile, new COVID-19 cases have surged in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, surpassing their levels in the spring.
In the News
A nightmare scenario is unfolding at the Federal Correctional Institution at Loretto in Cambria County. More than half of the inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began. Atif Malik, a physician who is serving a sentence at Loretto for financial crimes related to his medical practice, could see the handwriting on the wall long before the super spreader events of the fall led to a second peak of new cases. He knew that a prison is the perfect environment for the spread of a contagious disease. Because of his medical history, he now fears for his life. He is only 51 years old, but he has high blood pressure, diabetes, and coronary artery disease, and he had a heart attack when he was in his 40s, and now he has tested positive for COVID-19.
Let Us Help You Today
Staying out of prison is more important now than ever, and you need a Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyer if you are facing charges. Contact the law offices of Gary E. Gerson about your case.