Jail & Prison Design Creates An Ideal Environment For Coronavirus

Apr 21, 2020


On today's program: Activists are calling on state officials to release certain prisoners to encourage social distancing in jails; IT departments are busier than ever as more companies are working from home; and an invasive weed could be an ally in defending against rising sea levels. 

Are PA prisons a ticking time bomb for a COVID-19 outbreak?
(00:00 — 05:52)

Most prisons and jails are designed to keep people close together, but the same conditions that keep inmates confined can help diseases like coronavirus spread

Joseph Darius Jaafari, a staff writer for the PA Post, says that the coronavirus outbreak has forced some prisons to go on lockdown. With nowhere else to go, small cells and connected ventilation systems can help accelerate the spread of the virus. “You and your partner are stuck for 22 hours a day,” he says of conditions inside the prisons. “No Netflix. Just writing or reading.”

Activists, prison reformers and progressive prosecutors are calling on Pennsylvania leaders to release thousands of non-violent offenders and those close to the end of their sentences to make it more possible to socially distance those still behind bars, but some inmates with compromised immune systems say they worry they’re now waiting out a death sentence. 

IT departments are the unsung heroes of working from home
(06:01 — 11:03)

With workers across the region now working remotely, many businesses are attempting to pivot their operations into online offerings making often-invisible information technology workers more essential than ever. 

Keystone Crossroads’ Laura Benshoff reports that as massive amounts of public life moves online, IT professionals have been pushed into the spotlight as they work to help keep businesses viable. 

Defending rising sea levels with the mighty phragmites
(11:10 — 18:01)

Phragmites, also known as common reed, are one of the Delaware region’s most invasive coastal species. They overtake marshes and push out native plants, altering ecosystems, but climate change has forced some scientists to reevaluate the negative impacts of some invasive plants, including phragmites. 

StateImpact Pennsylvania’s Susan Phillips reports on how the reeds could be a key line of defense against rising sea level. 

90.5 WESA’s Julia Zenkevich contributed to this report. 

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.