Why Prisons should distribute surgical masks to all inmates

The pandemic of coronavirus disease served as the gateway to a whole lot of problems for nations everywhere. Whether it was the decline in the economy, the collapse of healthcare, or the recession that was anticipated by all economists. It suffices to say that the pandemic shook things up for both the government and the people. One of the major problems that corona brought along was the shortage of personal protective equipment such as N95 respirator and surgical masks. This shortage of PPE was a major problem especially for the healthcare workers since they are in such proximity to the virus and are the most prone to contracting it.

Beside healthcare workers, there was also the general public that also craved for the protection of good-quality respirators or masks, however organizations such as the WHO had ordered the public to opt for masks other than N95 and surgical masks as they are more important for healthcare workers, whereas—the public could easily manage the situation with the average quality or homemade masks since no one was going out anyway. However, there is one more sector that needed surgical masks, maybe not as badly as the healthcare workers but the circumstances indicated that prisoners and inmates were also in dire need of surgical masks.

Why are prisoners being ignored?

America is a country that advocates for inclusivity but the irony is that when the virus got to prisons and started spreading among the inmates, the country and its government failed to provide surgical masks for the convicts. It could be reckoned that prisoners weren’t the priority for a country that was in trouble knee-deep and was even unable to provide sufficient PPE for its healthcare staff. So the health and safety of prisoners and the prison staff weren’t on the priority list of the government. As a result, the virus continued to spread far and wide in many prisons of America and caused many deaths as well.

Why the life of prisoners is at risk in America

Like mentioned before, the life of prisoners is in more danger than the general population, and the stats of COVID-19 cases in prisons of America and over the world can attest to that. The reason behind this is because prisons are not the cleanest place to live in-they are dirty and have no proper system of maintaining hygiene and most of all, are the abode of thousands of convicts making it extremely overcrowded. There have been coronavirus cases reported in prisons of almost every country. In the United States, the five worst outbreaks of this disease were reported in no other place than a prison with the highest number of cases reported in the prison of Ohio.

For America, a country that incarcerates a staggering number of 2.3 million people each day, the pandemic had become a serious problem because of the threat it posed for prisoners everywhere in America, and the government’s less than competent response didn’t help this chaotic situation either. In addition to this, the lack of PPE and surgical masks for inmates and the staff was the problem that was serving as a barrier between mitigation and not allowing the authorities to alleviate this problem.

Lack of PPE and surgical masks

The country’s response to the alarming increase of cases among the prisoners was less than satisfying. The country was unable to arrange surgical masks for the prisoners for a long time and even refused to comply with other options like the early release of inmates who hadn’t committed violent crimes as most countries had done in the current situation. These two shortcomings caused many prisoners and even prison staff to lose their lives because of the government’s incompetency. After a long wait, the government had even managed to arrange masks such as the surgical masks for the prisoners but it was very late by then and the country had witnessed a large number of prisoner’s death by that time. The US government should have prioritized the health of prisoners just like they prioritized the healthcare workers-even though they also had to face the shortage of surgical masks and other PPE but had they done that or at-least had resorted to the option of releasing some inmates this problem would have not gotten as much out of hand.

Most prisons in America and everywhere else are overcrowded and accommodate a large number of inmates, sometimes, even so, more than their capacity. In addition to this, inmates also share cells and sleep in bundles as well. Further, the sanitary conditions of prisons aren’t that well either which further adds to this problem. So all these reasons are enough to prove that prisoners' lives were in most danger during this pandemic and the government should have handled this situation better and have made surgical masks and other necessary PPE available for them at all costs.


If the United States government had taken notice of the number of cases emerging from prisons each day they might have realized their responsibility towards them and might have arranged surgical masks earlier. While sanitary conditions are also to be blamed for the large number of deaths that were incurred by the prisons because of COVID-19 and the fact that prisons are overcrowded is also a contributing factor but it cannot be argued that masks such as surgical masks play the role of a lifeline in such situations. So if the country had only managed to arrange surgical masks for the inmates, it could have made a huge difference and the death rate could have been surprisingly low too.

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