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Michael hasn’t touched ­another human being since March, and he doesn’t know when he will again. He hasn’t seen his wife, two children or ­aging parents in six months. When he does see them again, it will only be for an hour, every two weeks, with no physical contact allowed. The price for keeping Michael safe from COVID-19 is very steep.

Michael is in a federal correctional facility upstate. He is serving a long sentence for a financial crime. The prison is locked down to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. But like many of the guidelines of our panicked moment, the rules are arbitrary. Michael is my longtime friend, and he has been writing to me about his experience.

From March until August, he was allowed outdoors for only an hour every three days. Now the inmates are allowed outside for an hour a day. Shouldn’t outdoor time be maximized, since we now know outdoor transmission is minimal, often nonexistent?

The inmates have had no rehabilitative, educational or recreational activities since March. Medical care is limited. Dental visits are completely shut down. No group religious services are allowed.



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