HAGERSTOWN, Md. (WDVM) — Corrections officials have been contemplating early release for certain prison inmates as a way to control the coronavirus. But a Hagerstown-based group which works with recently-released inmates is waving the caution flag.
Since prisons are a prime candidate to be a virus incubator there have been calls to thin the inmate population by releasing low-level offenders, the medically vulnerable and to accelerate the release times for inmates who do not pose a community risk.
Gatekeepers, which helps transition those behind bars back into society, cautions that inmates need a bridge to their freedom or they are highly likely to return to the prison system.
“If we rush the release process we are setting ourselves up for failure,” says Bill Gaertner, who has won national awards for his work to help inmates transition with job prospects, housing and social services support. “They need a transition that prevents recidivism.”
But with the pandemic there are fewer jobs and social support systems are stressed, says Leanne Kuehnle with Gatekeepers. “Re-entry to society is difficult enough without the coronavirus,” she explains. “But now, the resources are just not available.”