Columns, Op-Eds, & Interviews COVID-19 & Justice

After the COVID-19 Release of Prisoners, Who Will Help Them?

The Crime Report
Written by The Crime Report

By Tyrone Walker

I spent half my life in prison—24 years, eight months and 15 days—and nothing I experienced compares to the crisis I see behind bars today.

I am alarmed by the rapid spread of COVID-19, and I fear for the men and women housed in prisons and jails around the nation— as well as correctional staff —because I know from experience there is no way you can keep people safe in that environment.

When the bacterial infection MRSA struck the federal prison where I was incarcerated, the earliest cases were misdiagnosed as spider bites, so it spread quickly throughout the prison. That was because people kept coming out to play basketball and use the exercise equipment.

The prison was not equipped to handle an outbreak, and many individuals had to be sent to an outside hospital, while others waited for months for treatment.

That experience made clear that the kind of social distancing advocated by public health officials today to curtail the spread of the coronavirus is impossible in our prison and jail system.  Lockdowns, or modified lockdowns, are imminent.

Let me tell you what infection during a lockdown looks like. I was housed in a federal prison in Atlanta during an outbreak of shingles. We were locked down for two weeks. Correctional officers, not physicians, came to our cells and ordered us to remove our shirts, face forward with our hands out and palms up, and turn around so they could see our backs to check if anybody was infected.

That was terrifying because you did not know who might be sick, including the staff. The uncertainty, coupled with the loss of control of your own health and safety, created significant anxiety.

You think photos of people gathering on the beach, in restaurants or crammed on public transit are scary? In a lockdown, men and women will be housed on top of one another in cells, pods or dormitories, which can range from two to 200 individuals in one living space.

Lockdowns mean 24 hours in your cell. In maximum and medium custody, you will normally be housed in two-person cells. In a low or camp custody, you can be housed in a dormitory with dozens of people. With double, and sometimes triple, cells averaging six feet by eight feet, six feet of separation is physically impossible.

Prisons were not designed to stop the spread of disease; they were built to house as many people as possible in tight quarters, which is a recipe for death and disaster in a pandemic.

There is only one remedy. Officials must take immediate steps to reduce the number of people in prison, starting with low-risk and geriatric populations. Prisons are full of people who have been locked up far beyond any public safety benefit. Some estimates suggest as many as four in 10 people could be released safely right now.

A Cautionary Note

However, we cannot release people without taking measures that recognize many of the more than two million people in our prisons today are historically disadvantaged and lack the means of supporting themselves when they return to their communities.

Many could be forced into shelters, or other close-proximity facilities, where the threat of outbreak is substantial. Providing them with adequate resources, including access to the many helping organizations out there, like Homeboy Industries, is therefore critical.

When I was released in December 2018, I was provided with my birth certificate, social security card, an identification card, and a Medicaid card. I had to figure everything out for myself.

I was used to paying a $2 co-payment in prison when I needed to see a doctor. Now, for the first time in my life, I had to learn how to locate one myself and schedule appointments. This can be an obstacle to securing medical treatment in the best of times; it is a major concern now as health care systems become increasingly overcrowded and difficult to navigate.

Tyrone Walker

Officials must certainly act now to reduce the number of incarcerated people in prisons and jails in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. But they must also help those returning citizens navigate in a world they have not experienced for years, by coordinating access to health care, housing and other support services.

Individual releases as a result of the epidemic need to be aligned with localized reentry support.

Otherwise, we will be moving these individuals from the proverbial frying pan into the fire.

This story originally appeared at The Crime Report.

Tyrone Walker is an Associate at the Justice Policy Institute. He was released from custody under Washington, D.C.’s Incarceration Reduction Amendment Act, which allowed violent offenders who committed crimes while under the age of 18 — and have served at least 15 years of their sentence – to petition for a re-sentencing hearing. The Act was amended in 2019 to become the “Second Look Act.”

Image by byronv2, Flickr.


  • Second Look? Did Tyrone’s victim get a second look? A second chance?

    What Tyrone calls a “mistake” is called “murder” by most people. The softest euphemisms in the world won’t change the act itself. Tyrone in another article:

    “If I didn’t tell you that I committed a murder at 17, you wouldn’t know. I made a mistake. When we make that mistake, we need you to treat us like we’re humans.”

    I love the minimizing and tone of entitlement in Tyrone’s statement from another article….”we NEED you to treat us like we’re humans.” And there’s this statement from Tyron in a piece:

    “As a brash kid, I made one of the worst mistakes of my life. I didn’t wake up one morning thinking that I would do something violent, nor did I plan for it to happen, but I fired a gun that killed another human being.

    ONE of the worst mistakes? Really? And, notice the subtle distancing himself from his “mistake?” HE didn’t kill someone, he just fired a gun….”that killed another human being.”

    Again, another murderer success story that people like Celeste like to point to to show why monsters should NOT be imprisoned but should be “treated” for their condition and its root cause, be it poverty, low IQ, high testosterone or of course, racism. The concept of punishment is SO antiquated in their minds and the only consequences for murder or rape should be access to a college education and various “Institutes” for the advancement of criminal people.

  • This entire notion acknowledges that the criminal element will be a burden on society no matter where they are. They victimize society, go to jails and prisons, liberals anguish over them, and they get released early. Then, we have to worry about them out in society? Come on now, when do they just become normal human beings and do like the rest of us? Yeah, that would be never.

  • As hard working law abiding people loose their jobs, young people get hit with an unknown future, kids have their school year disrupted until who knows when and a pandemic virus with no cure in sight ravages the country the author and editor focus on this. Really!!

    People are out of work, dying and our healthcare system is being overloaded. Maybe, just maybe if you social justice criminal loving types bent on destroying society types weren’t so hyper focused and concerned about getting what you want at all costs you would sat back, try to learn some empathy for innocent victims and realize maybe prison, jail or juvenile hall is in fact a safer place for these individuals. The workers at these locations are still going to work and exposing themselves and their families at risk everyday as if you care.

    At least in these detention facilities these criminals you are so worried about have access to free room and board, meals and healthcare without any cost to or have to expend effort to themselves. Oh…and they broke the law in the first place to get there. Normal folks who are loosing their jobs, homes, in fear if financial stability and looking forward to a bleek future would pardon the pun “kill for that security” right about now.

    The author and editor really have misguded and warped priorities.

    If enough decent people loose their jobs, let’s see how long you and like minded individuals will have any standing or liberal audience willing to buy your blather. Charity starts at home as they say.

  • In the latest report 67 deaths in LA occurred in institutional settings of patients/residents, none in the LA County jails system. Senior living, assisted living seem to be the the real problem. The Sheriff’s Department with Correctional seem to be on their game with only 8 confirmed inmates infected no deaths.

    So here are my questions.
    1. Who was responsible for the oversight of these facilities? What County and State leaders failed to protect these people?

    2. What could they have done better?

    3. Were they some of the same leaders who talked endlessly about protecting the homeless population and the incarcerated?

    4. Did they include Supervisor Kuehl who chastised the Sheriff to do more to protect the incarcerated?

    5. Did the Board of Supervisors pass a motion to examine how to protect senior and assisted living facilities during the height of the pandemic as the did with the LA County Jails? If not why not?

    6. Were the Boards priorities misplaced?

  • Tyrone, it saddens me deeply that jail was “terrifying” for you. Can only wonder if it crosses your mind how terrified your victim was. Probably not.

    You served your time but your credibility is shit. You’re a piece of shit and don’t deserve a platform to tell anyone, anything. Fuck off bro.

  • In reading this biased article, coupled with other events, what has become evident is the following:

    1.) Why is the Lame Street Media pushing all these articles?

    2.) Why didn’t the Lame Street Media push these same articles during the previous POTUS
    administration when the H1N1 and SARS viruses struck?

    3.) Why is the Lame Street Media creating so much fear and consternation during this COVID-19?

    4.) Why is the Lame Street Media shutting down the Hydroxychloroquine as the antidote?

    5.) Why should criminals (juvenile and adults) be released because of the COVID-19?
    A.) Did the victims get a pass before they were killed or maimed by these A**HOLE criminals?

    This is how the DemonRats work, use an incendiary, emotional, fear laced subject matter to try to pass their unconscionable acts, while the decent, law abiding citizens pay the price.

    If you don’t believe this, just look at what the DemonRats are trying to pass through legislation hidden within the stimulus bills (i.e., $1B in funding for abortion, ballot harvesting, credits for solar energy, etc.) how in the F*CK does this pertain to or help the American citizenry against the COVID-19??

  • I’m sure these poor helpless inmates are more then welcomed at Celestes home. She peddles this garbage so I hope she leads by example.

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