Case study on Hot Topic in Public Health Ethics
- What are the ethical implications of this case study?
- What are the ethical implications of alternative courses of action?
- What should we do in this situation and how can we justify that decision?
Before you begin your discussion this week prepare by reading the information posted in reading assignments for Discussion Board 7. You will respond to Steps 1 and 2 of the 3-Step process by Wednesday and respond to Step 3 by Friday.
Step 1: Analyze the Ethical Dimensions of the Public Health Issue and Context
During the COVID-19 pandemic, individuals in the criminal justice system are at increased risk of contracting COVID-19. Following CDC guidelines, such as social distancing and hand washing is challenging in these confined spaces. The Sheriff’s department who is responsible for ensuring safety and welfare of the inmates at the local county jail has contacted your team at the local health department for guidance.
- As jails are unable to adequately follow CDC guidelines, should offenders be eligible for early release? If yes, what types of offenders? Should any precautions be put in place? Such as self-quarantine or remote monitoring? Should inmates be required to pay bail?
- Individuals in the local county jail have tested positive for COVID-19. Several prisoners have been granted parole. Should these individuals that may have been exposed to COVID-19 be released into the community, or should they be retained? Why or why not?
- The healthcare costs (financial burden) of inmates at the local county jail is on the county government. How does this impact your decision to release individuals.
Step 2: Formulate Alternative Courses of Action and Evaluate their Ethical Dimensions
There are 3 choices suggested in this case study:
- Shrink the jail population by releasing inmates early regardless of their ability to pay bail
- Release inmates only if they can pay bail
- Retain inmates in lockup because they may be infected and could spread COVID-19 to the community
What are the ethical implications of these options?
Step 3: Provide Justification for a Particular Public Health Decision
For this step, your discussion team will communicate and decide together the answers to these questions. One team member should make a final post on behalf of the team to share your team’s decision and justification.
- Which course of action will your team choose?
- What is the justification for your decision? (Which ethical principles take priority and why?)