Prisoners are being kept in isolation, but without widespread testing, they could bring the virus out with them on release

Shortly after Covid-19 began to bring death and despair to our shores, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) started issuing daily, weekday media briefings on the impact of the disease across the penal estate in England and Wales. The briefings began by listing the numbers of prisoners and staff who had tested positive for the disease. But the figures for prisoners are way below those forecast by many concerned prison watchers.

In March, the Prison Governors Association in England and Wales, together with reform groups, politicians from all sides, and the Prison Officers Association, called for the early release of prisoners, to avoid a “jail pandemic”.

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