18 Died Of COVID-19 In Texas Prisons After Winning Parole: Report
At least 18 people died from the effects of COVID-19 in the first 12 months of the pandemic in Texas prisons after being paroled, a heartbreaking study found.
Another two dozen suspended inmates died behind bars, largely due to chronic health problems unrelated to COVID, according to a study published Thursday by the University of Texas' Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at Austin -19 had to do.
"Despite parole, some [inmates] will never leave the prison gates because they die while waiting to be released," said the report, entitled "Dead Man Waiting."
A "significant delay between approval of parole and release of parole is built into the current design of the Texas probation system," it added.
This delay was particularly deadly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prisoner rights attorneys have been pleading in vain with state officials since last year for the immediate release of those granted parole as the pandemic ravaged prisons across America, killing hundreds in Texas detention centers.
In the Texas system, thousands of inmates have already been granted probation at any given time. However, they must complete rehabilitation, treatment, or life skills training before they can be released. Some wait more than a year for approval before they can meet these requirements.
Delays increased during COVID-19 when advance programs were postponed, The Texas Tribune reported.
"Some of these people were eligible months and months and months ago [for release] and they are still there," Jorge Renaud, regional director for politics and advocacy for southwest LatinoJustice, told the outlet last year. "You put these people at risk unnecessarily."
Prior to the coronavirus outbreak in March 2020, a person on parole stayed in prison for an average of three to four months before being released, according to the report.
After that, the typical delays jumped to five to eleven months. Eleven people who died in prison during the pandemic had been paroled more than a year earlier, the report said.
Even before COVID-19, people were dying in Texas prisons every year after technically being freed. In total, at least 26 people died in prison in 2019 after being granted parole, the study said. In the first 12 months of the pandemic, at least 18 people who had already been paroled died from the virus before they could leave the country.
"Although COVID has dramatically exacerbated this problem, the data also tells us that this phenomenon is not unique to the pandemic era," the report said.
In April, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, around 10,800 people incarcerated in Texas prisons - about 9% of total prison inmates - had already been granted probation.
More than a quarter of them had been paroled at least six months earlier. According to the study, almost 900 people had waited more than a year for their release.
In 2019, fewer than a quarter of those granted parole were released immediately.
Republican Governor Greg Abbott (R) resisted requests for probation officers to be released faster or for prisoners to end their sentences under house arrest, as allowed by Donald Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen. "Releasing dangerous criminals on the street is not a solution" to the virus threat in prisons and prisons, Abbott said.
Today I issued an executive order preventing dangerous criminals from being released from prisons and prisons.
We want to prevent the spread of # COVID19 among prison staff and inmates.
But releasing dangerous criminals on the streets is not a solution. # txlege # coronavirus pic.twitter.com/GEEB4icIUj
- Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) March 30, 2020
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.
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