A Plea to Apply Principles of Quarantine Ethics to Prisoners and Immigration Detainees During the COVID-19 Crisis
19 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2020
Date Written: August 20, 2020
An important topic has been neglected in the discussion of ethical issues related to the current Pandemic: unsafe conditions experienced by those who are incarcerated in state or federal prisons or confined in immigration facilities. I argue that principles of Quarantine Ethics addressing the health and safety of those subject to involuntary quarantine should be applied to mitigate the risk that COVID-19 poses to inmates and detainees. These individuals are presumed to have been lawfully detained, thereby excluding the question of the necessity and validity of an order requiring the compulsory quarantine as would apply to an ordinary citizen. However, human rights law remains applicable notwithstanding their status as inmates or undocumented immigrants. Accordingly, these individuals are entitled to safe conditions of confinement to reduce the high risk of their exposure to infectious disease. Judicial caselaw addressing these facilities’ obligations to provide medical care is insufficient. I offer recommendations for improving conditions of confinement based on recognition that neither penal nor immigration policies are furthered by unreasonable risk of exposure to the virus. The disproportionate incarceration of people of color makes the topic yet more urgent.
Keywords: Quarantine, Prisons, Immigration Detention, Eighth Amendment, Human Rights, COVID-19
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