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The concept of “linked fate” has taken on new meaning in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. People all over the world – from every walk of life, spanning class, race, gender, and nationality – face a potentially deadly threat requiring cooperation and sacrifice. The plight of the most vulnerable among us affects the capacity of the larger community to cope with, recover, and learn from COVID-19’s devastating impact. COVID-19 makes visible and urgent the need to embrace our linked fate, “develop a sense of commonality and shared circumstances,” and unstick dysfunctional and inequitable political and legal systems.

Nowhere is the hazard of failing to recognize linked fate more urgent than in the criminal legal system. COVID-19 pandemic has hit people who live and work in correctional institutions particularly hard. The government bears legal and moral responsibility for people incarcerated in prisons, jails, and juvenile detention facilities, who cannot leave and must depend for their survival of the pandemic on the state. The movement in and out of correctional facilities by those employed to fulfill government’s responsibility also ensures the spread of infection. One study, for example, found that "increases in a county's jail incarceration rate were associated with significant rates of infectious disease deaths. The collective failure to attend to the circumstances that enmesh people in the criminal legal system – poverty, racial discrimination, poor health and mental care health care – also make prisons and jails a ground zero of the pandemic's spread.


Criminal Law | Criminal Procedure | Health Law and Policy | Human Rights Law | Law | Law Enforcement and Corrections | Social Welfare Law


Read/download the book, Law in the Time of COVID-19.


Center for Institutional and Social Change