‘While Covid-19 is a global threat, it is the most vulnerable who are most at risk.’ – President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins
With major outbreaks already seen in some of the biggest correctional facilities in the world, there is a very real danger that Covid-19 could be a death sentence for those within criminal justice systems. Prisons are not conducive to social distancing, exacerbated in some regions by existing issues of overcrowding, understaffing and poor hygiene. The mass surveillance of those on probation and parole is likewise problematic. Early release schemes and public policy are coming under increased scrutiny. As age is a major risk factor, the pandemic has also sparked debate as to whether older populations should be protected – 'cocooned' – or, in a more calculated economic move, sacrificed for the sake of their grandchildren. Thought to account for half of all deaths from the virus in Europe, care facilities are in a state of crisis while those isolating at home may face mental and physical deterioration. The living conditions of refugees, displaced populations, and homeless people likewise put these already vulnerable groups at higher risk of Covid-19 infection and complications.
The second in a five-part series, this workshop will explore how Covid-19 is affecting those on the margins of society. Our speakers will discuss the pandemic in relation to criminal justice systems and examine issues concerning ageism, the care sector and economic policy. They will address the potential human rights implications and consider how the virus might be used as an opportunity to change attitudes, implement reform and build better, more inclusive societies.The floor will then be open for participants to respond: to ask questions and to widen the parameters of the conversation.
Rosemary Byrne is a Professor of Legal Studies at NYUAD. She served as a Human Rights Commissioner for the Irish Human Rights Commission, which was established in the aftermath of the Good Friday Agreement, and was chair of the Scientific Committee of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency.
Rose Anne Kenny is Professor of Medical Gerontology at Trinity College Dublin, Director of the Falls and Blackout Unit at St James's Hospital Dublin and Director of the new Mercer’s Institute for Successful Ageing. She is the principal investigator and founder of The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA), a large-scale, nationally representative, longitudinal study on ageing in Ireland which aims to make Ireland the best place in the world to grow old.
Vincent Schiraldi is a Senior Research Scientist at the Columbia School of Social Work and co-Director of the Columbia Justice Lab. He founded the Justice Policy Institute think tank and was formerly the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Probation and Senior Policy Adviser to the NYC Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice.
Crises of Democracy curriculum.
Bradner, Kendra and Schiraldi, Vincent. ‘Racial Inequities in New York Parole Supervision.’ March 12, 2020.
Columbia Justice Lab. ‘Too big to succeed: The impact of the growth of community corrections and what should be done about it.’ January 29, 2018.
Executives Transforming Probation and Parole (EXiT). ‘Statement from community supervision executives on the importance of using best practices during the COVID-19 crisis.’
Executives Transforming Probation and Parole (EXiT). COVID-19 Response.
Kenny, Rose Anne. Dublin Talks: How healthy communities will help you live longer.
Kenny, Rose Anne. The end of ageing.
Science Advice for Policy by European Academies. Transforming Ageing in Europe; Fighting Ageist Age Discrimination. 2019: 53.
About the series
This is a special five-part series organised by the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute in partnership with the Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities at Columbia University in response to the Covid-19 crisis.