COVID in jails and prisons

We moved to Houston 3 months ago and just unpacked our last box last Saturday. This is my first letter in the Houston Chronicle. COVID or no, prison reform/decarceration for many who are currently being held is long overdue. The Chronicle edited out my last 2 sentences which stated that prisoners are the only population in the US that are guaranteed health care and that therefore anyone who supports the Constitution needs to get on board with decarceration during these COVID times. Not sure the link works so here is the text of the letter:

Do better, Texas

Regarding “Texas must do more to save prisoners” (A18, Nov 22): Kudos to the Houston Chronicle for its editorial. The United States incarcerates far more of its population than any other nation on earth — with Texas leading the way — so it was just a matter of time before COVID-19 infections would run rampant through prisons, exacting a toll inside prison walls that spills over into the population at large, including prison guards and their families.

Although some individuals have been released due to COVID-19, Texas can do far better and begin to release those who are being held pretrial and are unable to pay cash bail, as well as those who are most likely to develop complications from COVID-19 (individuals who are older or who have preexisting health conditions). Additionally, Texas ought to release individuals who are being held for minor offenses such as drug possession, who are disproportionately people of color. And finally, ending the use of for-profit prisons in Texas — and thereby eliminating the profit motive for keeping individuals in prison — will also promote efforts at early release.

J. Wesley Boyd, Bellaire

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