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Law and Policy Doctoral Thesis

  • Prisons and Disasters

    "Prisons are not prepared to respond to and recover from natural and manmade disasters. However, prisons must take appropriate actions to save lives and safeguard their at risk populations during disasters, because they are legally responsible for the welfare of prisoners. Disasters can lead to a violation of prisoners’ constitutional and statutory rights and pose several types of injury (physical, emotional, mental, health), as well as public safety risks. There is a broad spectrum of concerns when responding to and recovering from disasters at prisons. Specific concerns include the standards of care for prisoners, the dispersion of prisoners, records management, and staffing shortages. Other problems include shortfalls in the resources required to continue essential functions at correctional facilities and the resources necessary to carry out protective action decisions (i.e. decisions made in a timely manner to protect public health and safety) during the response and recovery phases. These concerns are especially significant because many prisons throughout the nation house thousands of prisoners, which can make the emergency response and recovery process much more challenging. This study seeks to better understand why prisons are unprepared, it demonstrates why prisons should be included in emergency preparedness planning, and it identifies what policy and planning recommendations, as well as corrective actions need to be made to ensure prisons are integrated into the emergency management process" (8-9). Three "papers" comprise this dissertation. Paper1-Understanding why Prisons are Unprepared to Respond to and Recover from Disasters: introduction; legal rights of prisoners; gaps in the law; and conclusion. Paper 2-Assessing the Needs of Prison Capabilities during Disasters: introduction; study design; results-response rate, facilities surveyed regarding experience with disasters, emergency management departments, influenza specialty care units, and policy, trainings and other resources, and caveats; discussion; conclusion and next steps. Paper 3-Recommendations for Improving Disaster Preparedness in Prisons: introduction; seven recommendations; and conclusion.