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Incarceration in Colorado during a pandemic

A few weeks have passed since social distancing went from an obscure reference to the parlance of our times. Pre-pandemic, the idea of maintaining a significant distance from anyone or everyone seemed unnatural and standoffish.

Fast forward a microscopic span of time. Social distancing now is a matter of health versus illness. Gathering in groups numbering more than ten could represent the dividing line between life and death.

“Doing time” has never been more dangerous

The Novel Coronavirus has created a quandary in jails where hundreds are housed in close proximity. Simply put, social distancing comes at a premium. What once was a “public good” is evolving into a breeding ground for spreading COVID-19. Regardless of the reasons behind it, the agencies in charge are careening towards violating their mandate of protecting the health of both inmates and staff.

The solution to the problem of adding more bodies into jail cells sees law enforcement in Denver and Boulder counties exploring various options. Their goal is to limit the number of arrests for lower-level, not violent crimes involving property or narcotics. This essential and potentially life-saving step that does not automatically absolve suspects of their crimes.

Instead of being taken into custody, criminal suspects will be provided a summons by Denver police officers to appear before a judge. Boulder County is taking a similar approach while also considering prisoners who can be safely released, specifically those who suffer compromised immune systems or more severe health issues.

Additionally, all forms of in-person visits have been suspended in many jails throughout Colorado, banning friends, family members, and volunteers. Video chats now take the place of face-to-face interactions.

These initiatives can strike a much-needed balance between protecting both the rights and well-being of inmates.

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