Of the many vulnerabilities and injustices that have been exacerbated by the current Covid-19 crisis, the condition of those living in prison has been one of the most significantly impacted.

Yet, unsurprisingly, it has been rarely discussed in the media. In the early stages of the pandemic, many warned that the potential outbreak of Covid-19 in prisons would have disastrous effects. In the vast majority of countries, including Greece, Italy, the UK and the US, the effective containment of the infection inside prisons seemed nearly impossible given the sharing of enclosed spaces, overcrowding, poor hygienic conditions and the inadequate access to healthcare, including protective equipment such as face masks, that characterise most prisons.

The current Covid-19 crisis forces us to ask ourselves truly radical, and often uncomfortable, questions on incarceration and its use by our states. Prisons are places where people’s fundamental rights are routinely violated and our fellow citizens who are incarcerated and their families far too often find themselves at the mercy of institutions that are indifferent and uncaring if not outright oppressive and cruel. This should urge us to radically rethink this institution. Whether this should lead us on the path of prison reform or prison abolition remains to be seen.

* Analysis by

Dr. Costanza Porro, Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Philosophy Department of the University of Hamburg

ENA Centre for Political Theory | Co-ordinator: Yiannis Kouris