Parchman prison. Jan. 15, 2020.

Civil rights groups in Mississippi are urging Gov. Tate Reeves “to immediately develop evidence-based and proactive plans” to prevent and manage the spread of the novel coronavirus in prisons and jails, they wrote in a letter Monday.

The letter is signed by multiple groups in the state, including the Mississippi Prison Reform Coalition, the Mississippi Center for Justice and the state NAACP chapter.

“Imprisoned and detained people are highly vulnerable to outbreaks of contagious illnesses such as COVID-19,” reads the letter. “They are housed in close quarters and are often in poor health. Without the active engagement of those who administer the facility, they have little ability to learn about ongoing public health crises or to take necessary preventative measures if they do manage to learn of them.”

The groups list multiple critical issues to be addressed, including compliance with national standards by officials and organizations including the Center for Disease Control and Prevention; educating people in custody and facility staff; releasing medically fragile and older adults and children; creating adequate staffing plans; screening and testing people in custody; and providing hygiene supplies.

Mississippi Today has reached out to MDOC about its pandemic plan and any steps the department has taken so far. The agency has previously announced it is suspending visitation and inmate transfers from county jails.

You can read the entire the letter here.

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