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What implications do the Covid-19 outbreaks in Northern Triangle prisons have for both health and security?

Barry McCaffrey, retired U.S. army four-star general and former director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy: “The Covid-19 pandemic is a disaster in the United States, with a fearsome impact on our 2.3 million prisoners. The pandemic will clearly inflame the prisons of the migratory nations of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. There are very grim consequences to come and few real solutions. Covid-19 has no effective therapies.

There is no vaccine. Palliative care is resource intensive. The three nations have a confirmed infection rate of 25,000+ cases in the general population. Their massively overcrowded prison systems had in excess of a thousand cases at the end of May. (Occupancy is 200-400 percent of capacity.) There is zero chance of social distancing for this respiratory illness or quarantine in these fearsome facilities. Resources for hygiene, personal protective equipment and treatment in the prisons are minimal. Outside the prison walls, organized crime is aggressively exploiting the crisis with murder, drug trafficking, extortion and sexual violence. More than 720,000 people have fled their homes to seek safety.

There will be little political will to stop pretrial confinement or significantly increase early release to gain space. The economy is in free-fall throughout Central America. Remittances are drying up from the United States and elsewhere. The lockdown has hammered the economy. Corruption from authorities and police continue to weaken business. We are watching an ongoing tragedy inside and
out of the prison walls.”