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USA Today: Prisons restrict inmates, staffers' movements as they try to keep coronavirus out

Friday, March 20, 2020  
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WASHINGTON – More than 500,000 inmates in the nation’s largest prison systems were on near-lockdown this week as authorities scrambled to guard against outbreaks of the coronavirus. California, Florida, Texas and the federal Bureau of Prisons have all suspended visitation and largely restricted the movement of prisoners within their systems.

The restrictions underscore the growing concern for vulnerable populations living in close quarters where seasonal illnesses often spread quickly. 

The looming threat posed by the pandemic represents "one of the greatest fears for any prison director," said Laurie Robinson, a former assistant attorney general who was part of a congressional task force that examined the federal prison system in 2015.

"You have a confined population that already may not be in the best of health due to prolonged drug use and alcohol abuse," Robinson said. "There is often no way to set up an effective quarantine" because prisoners are confined in small cells. "You also have staff in those very close quarters that makes them so vulnerable, too."

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