Clinic Releases Recommendations on Health, Human Rights in Federal Prisons and Immigration Detention During COVID-19

The Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Law Clinic at Yale Law School has released a set of national recommendations to address the crisis of COVID-19 in prisons, jails, and immigration detention centers across the United States. The recommendations call for the immediate release of those who are incarcerated, to the maximum extent possible.

“Social distancing is impossible in overcrowded, poorly ventilated prisons, jails, and immigration detention facilities,” said Leanne Gale ’20, a student in the Lowenstein Clinic. “COVID-19 is already spreading like wildfire amongst the 2.3 million people currently incarcerated in the United States.”

Students in the Clinic have coauthored a piece in Health Affairs with Dr. Donald Berwick, former Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and President Emeritus and Senior Fellow at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. The piece advocates for the use of a public health and human rights framework to protect incarcerated people from the spread of COVID-19.

“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes that health is a human right,” said Faith Barksdale ’20, a student in the Lowenstein Clinic. “The right to health extends to people who are incarcerated, who must be treated with dignity and protected from harm.”

The recommendations were drafted by Leanne Gale ’20, Faith Barksdale ’20, and Megan Hauptman ’21, under the supervision of Hope Metcalf, Clinical Lecturer in Law, Research Scholar in Law, and Executive Director of the Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights, and Ryan Thoreson ’14, Clinical Lecturer in Law, Associate Research Scholar in Law, and Robert M. Cover-Allard K. Lowenstein Fellow in International Human Rights at Yale Law School.

The Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Law Clinic is a legal clinic at Yale Law School that undertakes projects on behalf of human rights organizations and individual victims of human rights abuses. The goals of the Clinic are to provide students with practical experience that reflects the range of activities in which lawyers engage to promote respect for human rights, to help students build the basic knowledge and skills necessary to be effective human rights advocates, and to contribute to efforts to protect human rights through assistance to appropriate organizations and individual clients.