How Is COVID-19 Affecting Those Under House Arrest?

Self-Isolation Hits House Arrest Participants Hard

The stay at home orders were daunting for many Americans when news of quarantine first spread. For several others, self-isolating at home has been their norm. Prisoners kept under house arrest are, at first glance, perhaps unaffected by the country’s lockdown. Upon closer evaluation, however, these Americans are being left behind as the country adapts to new safety measures.

While inmates are in jail, they’re provided with the basic necessities of food and medicine. While under house arrest, no such provisions exist. Instead, these individuals must provide everything for themselves, which involves a lengthy task of obtaining permission to leave their house to get their necessary supplies.

Standard protocol demands those with electronic monitors (EM) to ask for these allowances days in advance. Requests require detailed information, including everything surrounding the trip from the name of the person accompanying the individual, the destination, and time of visit to the mode of transportation they’re intending to use. With the panic-buying across the nation, there’s no way to guarantee the EM participants will even be able to acquire their basic necessities on their limited outings.

Of course, exceptions exist for emergency medical care. But, amidst a pandemic, no exceptions exist to ensure EM participants retain access to their basic necessities or medicine for non-emergency illnesses. And leaving the house themselves to obtain them can land them in jail.

Beyond their own inability to acquire needed household and living items, COVID-19 has impacted the alternative methods and help they may have otherwise utilized to complete these tasks. Many EM participants rely on family or friends to assist with grocery or prescription pick-up. With the current state of the pandemic, these assistants must also consider their own health and safety. These individuals are now also leaving the house significantly less, thus minimizing their ability to provide for the EM participant. Their help is even less available if they’re elderly or immunocompromised.

With these individuals left to fend for themselves, they’re facing additional barriers. Gaining permission to move outside the house becomes increasingly difficult as probation and parole officers—as well as electronic monitoring call centers’ working staff—numbers lower to appease social distancing guidelines.

Should inmates fall ill and need immediate care, their movement is only excused in the event that they call an ambulance to transport them to the hospital. This puts an unnecessary financial barrier in front of their ability to receive the attention they need.

The coronavirus struck an ill-prepared nation when cases became prevalent in the United States. While no one is truly adequately protected amidst the pandemic, some groups, such as the individuals participating in the electronic monitoring program, are exposed to grave danger.