Let them go! Compassionate release for disabled prisoners with chronic health conditions during the COVID-19 public health emergency

Sara Schotland


Inmates with disabilities are at high risk of serious illness and death from COVID-19 due to crowded and unsanitary conditions. The punishment for serious crimes is incarceration—not exposure to a dangerous, contagious virus. Prisoners have human rights, notwithstanding the loss of most of their civic rights. Critical Disability Studies draws attention to multiple and overlapping injustices and oppressions. Prisoners with disabilities often suffer from race and ethnic discrimination, poverty, trauma, multiple physical impairments, mental illness, and/or cognitive limitations. This essay calls for action to accelerate compassionate release of disabled inmates, many of whom are at high risk for COVID-19, and offers recommendations for improving conditions of confinement for disabled inmates who remain incarcerated.


Compassionate release; prisons; critical disability studies; COVID-19; human rights; race

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18061/dsq.v41i3.8305

Copyright (c) 2021 Sara Schotland

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ISSN: 2159-8371 (Online); 1041-5718 (Print)