COVID-19 and the mass incarceration of Indigenous peoples

  • Paula King Te Rōpu Rangahau Hauora a Eru Pōmare, University of Otago
  • Donna Cormack Te Kupenga Hauora Māori, The University of Auckland
  • Rawiri Keenan
Keywords: Indigenous peoples, Māori, incarceration, prisons, detention, COVID-19

Abstract

Similar to experiences of Indigenous peoples globally, Māori in the nation-state known as New Zealand (NZ) have been subjected to mass incarceration by the colonial state. Places of detention are dangerous environments for the spread of COVID-19. We are deeply concerned about the potential for disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 on Māori and other Indigenous peoples within these environments as many have health conditions and/or multiple comorbidities compounding the risks of severe illness and death from COVID-19. We call for the NZ government to honour te Tiriti o Waitangi obligations and uphold Indigenous rights contained within the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other international rights instruments. A whole-of-government commitment to an equitable public health approach is required to: 1) rapidly reduce the numbers of Māori in sites of detention; 2) implement effective, timely, evidenced informed measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19, in line with World Health Organization recommendations; 3) prevent the torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of detained Māori during COVID-19; and, 4) eliminate double-celling. Although focused on NZ, the themes we highlight are likely of relevance for Indigenous peoples across the globe in our collective resistance to the COVID-19 pandemic.

References

Akiyama, M. J., Spaulding, A. C., & Rich, J. D. (2020). Flattening the curve for incarcerated populations – COVID-19 in jails and prisons. New England Journal of Medicine, 382(22), 2075–2077. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMp2005687

Alohan, D., & Calvo, M. (2020). COVID-19 outbreaks at correctional facilities demand a health equity approach to criminal justice reform. Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, 97, 342–347. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11524-020-00459-1

American Public Health Association. (2020). Advancing public health interventions to address the harms of the carceral system: Final assessment on statement from American Public Health Association’s Governing Council: PASSED. https://www.endingpoliceviolence.com

Anthony, T. (2020, March 31). Explainer: How will the emergency release of NSW prisoners due to coronavirus work? The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/explainer-how-will-the-emergency-release-of-nsw-prisoners-due-to-coronavirus-work-134523

Boyer, Y., Fletcher, J., Sutherland, K., & Spicer, D. T. (2019). First Nations, Metis, and Inuit prisoners' rights to health within the prison system: Missed opportunities. McGill JL & Health, 13(1), 27–72. https://senatorboyer.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/mjlh-13.1-boyer_10-11-2019.pdf

Burki, T. (2020). Prisons are “in no way equipped” to deal with COVID-19. The Lancet, 395(10234), 1411–1412. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30984-3

Chief Ombudsman. (2020). OPCAT COVID-19 Report: Report on inspections of prisons under the Crimes of Torture Act 1989. https://www.ombudsman.parliament.nz/sites/default/files/2020-06/Report_on_inspections_of_prisons_under_the_Crimes_of_Torture_Act_1989_062020.pdf

Cloud, D. H., Ahalt, C., Augustine, D., Sears, D., & Williams, B. (2020). Medical isolation and solitary confinement: Balancing health and humanity in US jails and prisons during COVID-19. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 35. 2738–2742. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11606-020-05968-y

Crooks, K., Casey, D., & Ward, J. S. (2020). First Nations people leading the way in COVID-19 pandemic planning, response and management. The Medical Journal of Australia, 213(4): 151–152.e1. https://doi.org/10.5694/mja2.50704

de Carvalho, S. G., Santos, I. M., & dos Santos, A. B. S. (2020). The pandemic in prison: Interventions and overisolation. SciELO – Scientific Electronic Library Online. https://doi.org/10.1590/SciELOPreprints.570

De Zoysa, R., Shoemack, P., Vaughan, R., & Vaughan, A. (2001). A prolonged outbreak of tuberculosis in the North Island. NZ Public Health Report, 8(1), 1–8. https://surv.esr.cri.nz/PDF_surveillance/NZPHR/2001/NZPHR200101Jan.pdf

Franco-Paredes, C., Jankousky, K., Schultz, J., Bernfeld, J., Cullen, K., Quan, N. G., Kon, S.,

Hotez, P., Henao-Martínez, A.F., & Krsak, M. (2020). COVID-19 in jails and prisons: A neglected infection in a marginalized population. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, 14(6), e0008409. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal. pntd.0008409

Freshour, C., & Williams, B. (2020). Abolition in the time of COVID-19. ANTIPODE (A Radical Journal of Geography). https://antipodeonline.org/2020/04/09/abolition-in-the-time-of-covid-19/

Gagnon, J. C. (2020). The solitary confinement of incarcerated American youth during COVID-19. Psychiatry Research, 291(113219). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2020.113219

Gilmore, R. W. (2007). Golden gulag: Prisons, surplus, crisis, and opposition in globalizing California. University of California Press.

Grosfoguel, R. (2002). Colonial difference, geopolitics of knowledge, and global coloniality in the modern/colonial capitalist world-system. Review (Fernand Braudel Center), 25(3), 203–224. https://doi.org/10.2307/40241548

Gulati, G., Dunne, C. P., & Kelly, B. D. (2020). Prisons and the COVID-19 pandemic. Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine. 1–2. https://doi.org/10.1017/ipm.2020.65

Hayden, L. (2020, August 29). Shame on Judge Sainsbury, shame on us all. The Spinoff. https://thespinoff.co.nz/atea/29-08-2020/shame-on-judge-sainsbury-shame-on-us-all/

Henry, B. F. (2020). Social distancing and incarceration: Policy and management strategies to reduce COVID-19 transmission and promote health equity through decarceration. Health Education & Behavior, 47(4), 536–539. https://doi.org/1090198120927318

Indian Health Services – Department of Health and Human Services. (2020). Coronavirus (COVID-19). https://www.indianz.com/covid19/?p=7570

Inter-Agency Standing Committee – Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights & World Health Organization. (2020). Interim guidance on COVID-19 – Focus on persons deprived of their liberty, dated 27 March 2020. https://interagencystandingcommittee.org/system/files/2020-03/IASC Interim Guidance on COVID-19 - Focus on Persons Deprived of Their Liberty.pdf

Jackson, M. (1988). The Māori and the Criminal Justice System A New Perspective: He Whaipaanga Hou Part 2. Wellington, New Zealand: Department of Justice.

Jackson, M. (2017, October 14). Prison should never be the only answer. E-TANGATA. https://e-tangata.co.nz/comment-and-analysis/moana-jackson-prison-should-never-be-the-only-answer/

Johnson, S., & Beletsky, L. (2020). Helping People Transition from Incarceration to Society During a Pandemic. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3608298

Jones, B., King, P., Baker, G., & Ingham, T. (2020). COVID-19 and health equity for Indigenous peoples with lived experience of disability. (Submission, paper under review).

Kaholokula, J. K. A., Samoa, R. A., Miyamoto, R. E., Palafox, N., & Daniels, S. A. (2020). COVID-19 Special Column: COVID-19 hits Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities the hardest. Hawai'i Journal of Health & Social Welfare, 79(5), 143–146. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7226312/

King, P. T. (2019). Māori with lived experience of disability, Part I: Wai 2575, #B22. https://forms.justice.govt.nz/search/Documents/WT/wt_DOC_150437272/Wai 2575%2C B022.pdf

Kinner, S. A., Young, J. T., Snow, K., Southalan, L., Lopez-Acuña, D., Ferreira-Borges, C., & O'Moore, É. (2020). Prisons and custodial settings are part of a comprehensive response to COVID-19. The Lancet Public Health, 5(4), e188–e189. https://doi.org/10.1016/ S2468-2667(20)30058-X

Lathouris, O. (2020, August 22). New restrictions in Queensland after cluster emerges in Brisbane. 9News. https://www.9news.com.au/national/coronavirus-outbreak-brisbane-youth-detention-centre-queensland-new-restrictions/dc6c3d50-d463-485c-99ab-360fb54ab197

Lyons, L. (2020). Incarceration, COVID-19, and emergency release: Reimagining how and when to punish. Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal. https://kiej.georgetown.edu/incarceration-covid-19-special-issue/

Markham, F., Smith, D., & Morphy, F. (2020). Indigenous Australians and the COVID-19 crisis: Perspectives on public policy, topical issue no. 1/2020. https://doi.org/10.25911/5e8702ec1fba2

McIntosh, T., & Workman, K. (2017). Māori and prison. In A. Deckert & R. Sarre (Eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Australian and New Zealand Criminology, Crime and Justice (pp. 725–735). Palgrave Macmillan.

McLeod, M., Gurney, J., Harris, R., Cormack, D., & King, P. (2020). COVID-19: We must not forget about Indigenous health and equity. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 44(4), 253–256. https://doi.org/10.1111/1753-6405.13015

Meneses-Navarro, S., Freyermuth-Enciso, M. G., Pelcastre-Villafuerte, B. E., Campos-Navarro, R., Meléndez-Navarro, D. M., & Gómez-Flores-Ramos, L. (2020). The challenges facing Indigenous communities in Latin America as they confront the COVID-19 pandemic. International Journal for Equity in Health, 19(63). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12939-020-01178-4

Ministry for Culture and Heritage. (2018). List of executions. https://nzhistory.govt.nz/culture/the-death-penalty/notable-executions

Ministry of Health. (2006). Results from the Prisoner Health Survey 2005. https://www.health.govt.nz/system/files/documents/publications/prisoner-health-survey-2005.pdf

Ministry of Justice. (2019). Youth Justice Indicators Summary Report. https://www.justice.govt.nz/assets/Documents/Publications/E4NOUP-Youth-Justice-Indicators-Summary-Report-August-2019.pdf

Minkler, M., Griffin, J., & Wakimoto, P. (2020). Seizing the moment: Policy advocacy to end mass incarceration in the time of COVID-19. Health Education & Behavior, 47(4). https://doi.org/1090198120933281

Montoya-Barthelemy, A., Lee, C. D., Cundiff, D., & Smith, E. (2020). COVID-19 and the correctional environment: The American prison as a focal point for public health. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 58(6), 888–891. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2020.04.001

Mukherjee, T. I., & El-Bassel, N. (2020). The Perfect Storm: COVID-19, mass incarceration and the opioid epidemic. The International Journal on Drug Policy. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2020.102819

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services, Danila Dilba Health Service, Aboriginal Peak Organisations of the Northern Territory, & Lachsz A. (2020). Joint submission for the report of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to the General Assembly – Impact of COVID-19 on Indigenous Peoples. http://www.amsant.org.au/apont/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Joint-submission-to-Special-Rapporteur-on-rights-of-Indigenous-peoples-Impact-of-COVID-19-19-June-2020-FINAL.pdf

Navajo Department of Health. (2020). Dikos Ntsaaígíí-19 (COVID-19). https://www.ndoh.navajo-nsn.gov/COVID-19?fbclid=IwAR2Wmo_KgxsrasZuI_OuNRqBN7zBs2BkNiy2PCix14gfDKpaGlUVpIzVJlc

Nelson, B., & Kaminsky, D. B. (2020). A COVID‐19 crisis in US jails and prisons. Cancer Cytopathology, 128(8), 513–514. https://doi.org/10.1002/cncy.22335

Nowotny, K., Bailey, Z., Omori, M., & Brinkley-Rubinstein, L. (2020). COVID-19 exposes need for progressive criminal justice reform. AJPH, 110(7), 967–968. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2020.305707

Office of the Children's Commissioner. (2020). Children with Offending Behaviour: Supporting children, 10–13 year olds, who seriously offend and are referred under s14(1)(e) of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 – State of Care Series #9. https://www.occ.org.nz/assets/Uploads/ChildrenWithOffendingBehaviour.pdf

Oladeru, O. T., Tran, N. T., Al-Rousan, T., Williams, B., & Zaller, N. (2020). A call to protect patients, correctional staff and healthcare professionals in jails and prisons during the COVID-19 pandemic. Health & Justice, 8(17), 1–3. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40352-020-00119-1

Paradies, Y. (2016). Colonisation, racism and indigenous health. Journal of Population Research, 33(1), 83-96. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12546-016-9159-y

Power, T., Wilson, D., Best, O., Brockie, T., Bourque Bearskin, L., Millender, E., & Lowe, J. (2020). COVID‐19 and Indigenous Peoples: An imperative for action. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 29, 2737–2741. https://doi.org/10.1111/jocn.15320

Rubin, R. (2020). The challenge of preventing COVID-19 spread in correctional facilities. JAMA, 323(18), 1760–1761. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2020.5427

Sapers, H. (2020). The case for prison depopulation: Prison health, public safety and the pandemic. Journal of Community Safety and Well-Being, 5(2), 79–81. https://doi.org/10.35502/jcswb.136

Simpson, P. L., & Butler, T. G. (2020). COVID-19, prison crowding, and release policies. BMJ, 369(m1551). https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m1551

Sivashanker, K., Rossman, J., Resnick, A., & Berwick, D. M. (2020). COVID-19 and decarceration. BMJ, 369(m1865). https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m1865

Solly, R. (2020, August 5). The red fleck in her hair. Newsroom. https://www.newsroom.co.nz/readingroom/the-red-fleck-in-her-hair

Stanley, E., & Mihaere, R. (2019). The problems and promise of international rights in the challenge to Māori imprisonment. International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 8(1). https://doi.org/10.5204/ijcjsd.v8i1.1045

Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture. (2020). Advice of the Subcommittee to States parties and national preventive mechanisms relating to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic 7 April 2020 CAT/OP/10. https://undocs.org/CAT/OP/10

Te Uepū Hāpai I Te Ora: Safe and Effective Justice Advisory Group. (2019). Turuki! Turuki! Move together! Transforming Our Criminal Justice System. https://safeandeffectivejustice.govt.nz/assets/Uploads/28ce04fd87/Turuki-Turuki-Report-Interactive.pdf

United Nations General Assembly. (1948). Universal Declaration of Human Rights. United Nations.

United Nations General Assembly. (1966a). Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. United Nations.

United Nations General Assembly. (1966b). International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. United Nations.

United Nations General Assembly. (1966c). International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. United Nations.

United Nations General Assembly. (1979). Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. United Nations.

United Nations General Assembly. (1984). Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. United Nations.

United Nations General Assembly. (1989). Convention on the Rights of the Child. United Nations.

United Nations General Assembly. (2006). Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. United Nations.

United Nations General Assembly. (2007). United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. United Nations.

United Nations Human Rights Committee. (2020). Statement on derogations from the Covenant in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic (advance unedited version), CCPR/C/128/2 dated 24 April 2020. https://cambodia.ohchr.org/sites/default/files/InfoNotes/CCPR COVIDstatement.pdf

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. (2015). The United Nations standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners (the Nelson Mandela rules) A/RES/70/175. https://undocs.org/A/RES/70/175

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. (2020). UN/DESA policy brief #70: The impact of COVID-19 on Indigenous Peoples. https://www.un.org/development/desa/dpad/publication/un-desa-policy-brief-70-the-impact-of-covid-19-on-indigenous-peoples/

United Nations Human Rights – Office of the High Commissioner. (2020). COVID-19 and the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Guidance. https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Disability/COVID-19_and_The_Rights_of_Persons_with_Disabilities.pdf

Walters, L. (2020, August 26). Govt needs to be braver on justice reform. Newsroom. https://www.newsroom.co.nz/pro/govt-needs-to-be-braver-on-justice-reform

Waretini-Karena, R. (2017). Colonial law, dominant discourses, and intergenerational trauma. In A. Deckert & R. Sarre (Eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Australian and New Zealand Criminology, Crime and Justice (pp. 697–709). Palgrave Macmillan.

World Health Organization. (2020). Preparedness, prevention and control of COVID-19 in prisons and other places of detention: Interim guidance 15 March 2020. https://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/434026/Preparedness-prevention-and-control-of-COVID-19-in-prisons.pdf

Published
2020-11-02