The stories coming out of coronavirus-stricken prisons and jails across the country are tragic and chilling.
We've heard from countless Granite Staters whose loved ones remain behind bars, many with pre-existing conditions that make them especially susceptible to this deadly disease. Many are close to parole or incarcerated for technical parole violations. But they wait in fear of COVID-19 in facilities where it is physically impossible to heed public health guidance such as social distancing.
For communities of color, the risks are especially acute. Black people in New Hampshire are more than five times as likely to be imprisoned than white people, which means a COVID-19 pandemic in our prisons and jails would disproportionately impact people of color. And, the state released numbers in late April that show despite making up 1.4% of the state's population, Black Granite Staters are contracting COVID-19 at 5.4%. This is not an equal opportunity virus.
Jail and prison health is public health. An outbreak in a correctional facility will not stay there as staff come and go every day. Reducing the risk of COVID-19 to our jails and prisons is part and parcel with reducing the risk to our communities.
New Hampshire's prisons and jails, where social distancing is impossible, pose an imminent threat to the residents, staff, and surrounding communities.
Governor Sununu and county officials must act now to save lives and avert a public health and humanitarian catastrophe.