Incarcerated Populations and COVID-19: Public health, ethical, and legal concerns


Wednesday, May 20, 2020, 12:00pm


Link will be emailed to registrants

Prisons, jails, and detention centers have been called 'a ticking time bomb' when it comes to COVID-19. One Ohio prison recently found that more than 70% of its inmates are COVID-19 positive. Social distancing is difficult to enact in these facilities, with some prisons stopping visitation and severely limiting the amount of time inmates can spend in common areas to try to limit the spread of the virus. In response, some inmates and detainees have been released, but this is not consistent across the country.

This panel will explore the unique public health challenge of trying to manage COVID-19 within incarceration facilities. We will discuss recent litigation to release people in response to the pandemic. Lastly, we will consider our ethical obligations to incarcerated individuals during a pandemic as well as challenges of releasing individuals without allowing the virus to spread further.

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Jessie Rossman, JD
Staff Attorney
ACLU Massachusetts

Karthik Sivashanker, MD
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry
Boston University School of Medicine

Staff Consultation-Liaison Psychiatrist
VA Boston Healthcare

Joel Thompson, JD
Staff Attorney
Prisoners' Legal Services of Massachysetts

Clinical Instructor
Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Program


Stephen P. Wood, ACNP-BC, MS
Fellow in Bioethics
Center for Bioethics, Harvard Medical School