- Just how many Americans will die as a result of COVID-19 spreading rapidly among a large incarcerated population? A new epidemiological model published by the ACLU found "that as many as 200,000 people could die from COVID-19 — double the government estimate — if we continue to ignore incarcerated people in our public health response." Current models used by governments do not fully account for the impact that jails have in undermining social distancing regulations.
To reduce the death toll, the ACLU recommends police officers "not make any
custodial arrests unless necessary to prevent an imminent and serious risk of bodily harm to another person, and instead issue summons for serious offenses and give verbal warnings or written citations for all other low-level offenses." But, according to the model, even reducing "arrests by 50 percent" would "save 12,000 lives in jails, and 47,000 lives in the surrounding communities."
Forgoing arrests "for anything but the five percent of crimes defined as most serious by the FBI including murder, rape, and aggravated assault" and doubling "the rate of release for those already detained" would "save 23,000 lives in jails, and 76,000 lives in communities." Accomplishing that would involve judges ordering "pretrial release without conditions in all cases where there is no risk of imminent serious physical harm to another person," and the "release of anyone currently incarcerated not meeting those conditions."