JHU Faculty Express Urgent Concern about Covid-19 Spread in Prison

March 25, 2020



More than 200 Johns Hopkins faculty in public health, bioethics, medicine, and nursing signed a letter delivered to Governor Larry Hogan today, expressing their urgent concern about the spread of COVID-19 in Maryland’s prisons, jails, and juvenile detention centers and calling on the state to protect the health of its incarcerated population and make “efforts to reduce the state prison population as well.”

Read the full letter.

The Dean of the School of Nursing, the Director of the Berman Institute of Bioethics, and a Vice Dean and seven department chairs from the Bloomberg School of Public Health were among the signatories. Organized by Len Rubenstein, core faculty of the Berman Institute of Bioethics and the Center for Humanitarian Health at Johns Hopkins, the letter said:

“This pandemic is shedding a bright light on the extent of the connection between all members of society: jails, prisons and other detention facilities are not separate, but are fully integrated with our community. As public health experts, we believe these steps are essential to support the health of incarcerated individuals, who are some of the most vulnerable people in our society; the vital personnel who work in prisons and jail; and all people in the state of Maryland.  Our compassion for and treatment of these populations impact us all.”

The letter also urged Gov. Hogan to take 10 steps, including:

  • Require correctional facility administrators to make their plans for prevention and management of COVID-19 in their institutions publicly available;
  • Ensure the availability of sufficient soap and hand sanitizer for incarcerated individuals without charge;
  • Consider pre-trial detention only in genuine cases of security concerns. Prioritize for release persons held for non-payment of fees and fines, or because of insufficient funds to pay bail, or parole or probation violations;
  • Expedite consideration of all older incarcerated individuals and those with chronic conditions predisposing to severe COVID-19 disease (heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, immune-compromise) for parole or other form of release from prison;
  • Arrange for COVID-19 testing of incarcerated individuals and correctional facility workers who become ill;
  • Cease any collection of fees or co-pays or medical care.

The letter represents the views of it signatories, and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Johns Hopkins University.