Healthcare Inequity Series: Covid in Prison

hen we think of prison, we often focus on the criminal aspect of the institution. These individuals broke the law and are being punished for doing so. But the punishment, as intended, was to be removed from society for a predefined amount of time, and then, as part of your agreement, you are released back into society. But, while in prison, many prisoners are dehumanized and receive treatment that far exceeds their actual sentence. Much of this is due, primarily, to the physical and psychological designs of the prisons themselves. Humane and dignified treatment was never part of the equation, and when you throw in a worldwide pandemic, how does a facility meant to confine and control people, in small dehumanizing spaces, properly care for those in its charge? On this episode of Systemic our host, Dan Kimbrough, speaks with Professor Brittany Friedman, a sociologist from the University of Southern California about the effects of COVID-19 within our prison system. Professor Friedman discusses the design flaws of the US prison system and how they were exposed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Professor Friedman shares how prisons were never meant to be healthcare facilities and how their punitive culture made containing the virus nearly impossible. She argues the roots of mass incarceration lie in slavery and calls for a complete reimagining of how we address harm in society. This episode of Systemic is sponsored by The Black Equity Coalition. The Black Equity Coalition is a group of experts from diverse fields working tirelessly to address institutional racism and structural impediments that continue to plague Black, undervalued, and underserved communities. Initially focused on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Coalition has committed to working towards racial and health equity beyond the pandemic’s eventual end by engaging the disparities in the five social determinants of health for the underserved (Our necessary means of health and survival). Through the collective efforts of physicians, researchers, epidemiologists, public health and health care practitioners, social scientists, community funders, and government officials, the Black Equity Coalition is dedicated to ensuring that vulnerable populations have access to health, well-being, and economic stability. For more information, visit For more information about Brittany and her work –

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