Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Jail & Prison Design Creates An Ideal Environment For Coronavirus

Marc Levy
Inmates in prisons and jails across the commonwealth, including SCI Camp Hill, have been confined to small spaces with little ability to socially distance since the outbreak began.


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.

Kiley Koscinski is a general assignment reporter for 90.5 WESA. She previously produced The Confluence and Morning Edition. Before coming to WESA, she worked as an assignment desk editor and producer at 1020 AM KDKA. She can be reached at
Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago.
Recent Episodes Of The Confluence