My friend Scott Henson over at the acclaimed blog Grits for Breakfas has another fantastic post, this time focusing on something I’ve blogged about before: coronavirus in our Texas jails. As of yesterday, Grits has the numbers of inmates who’ve tested positive:
Statewide, according to data from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, as of April 19, 180 Texas county jail inmates have tested positive for the coronavirus, as well as 153 jailers. Another 3,668 inmates were in isolation/quarantine, 160 inmates were awaiting test results, and 3 inmates with active COVID cases were being treated offsite. By contrast, test results were pending for all 144 jailers who were quarantined or isolated because of the virus, so testing clearly has been concentrated among staff, not inmates.
As of yesterday Dallas County jail was up to 64 positive inmates along with 19 staff members. 39 additional inmates and 11 staff had been tested and were awaiting results with another 428 inmates in isolation who haven’t been tested.
This is an absolute nightmare scenario. As Grits’ post discusses with examples from around the state, jails have always been notorious for not being sanitary. Watered down cleaning supplies and substandard medical care – something we as a society have some how turned a blind eye to dispite the obvious cruelty – are now a recipe for massive loss of life of both inmates and jail staff. Long term we need to look at holding our jails accountable for safety, cleanliness, and timely access to real medical care.