June 2, 2020

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Covid: You can't lock up a virus - Let our people go
May 4, 2020

Posted Courtesy of Wright Enterprises Community Spotlight~~~

REV. FREDERICK D. HAYNES III, CHAIR OF THE RAINBOW PUSH CRIMINAL JUSTICE PROJECT, CALLS FOR RELEASE OF SENIORS IN PRISONS IN THE US
April 21, 2020 
 
Rev. Frederick D. Haynes III, Chair of The Rainbow PUSH Criminal Justice Project,
calls for release of seniors in prisons in the US


TUESDAY, April 21,2020
 
Rev. Dr. Frederick Douglas Haynes, III.  Chair of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition’s Criminal Justice Project, is seeking to minimize the loss of life in prison where the incarcerated are existing in conditions where they cannot follow the protocol of physical distancing and are without hot and cold running water and are forced to survive in cells that are in many instances unsanitary.  

Most of prisoners aren’t tested, causing the disease to spread widely in the congested condition of the prison environment.  In one Ohio prison, 73 percent of those incarcerated tested positive for the coronavirus.  Many officials are sensitive to this situation and are beginning to separate those who are positive from those who test negative.  The more progressive sheriffs and wardens are moving to release non-violent offenders on electronic monitoring and sentencing them to house arrest.
 
We have reached out to President Trump and governors across the nation to depopulate jails and prisons to keep them from becoming COVID-19 graveyards. In this environment the prison system has limited or no capacity to protect people from this devastating disease. 

Most prisons are not releasing data on how many prisoners have tested positive and the numbers who do will head the next round of tragedy.  Beyond the nursing homes, are the number of Americans in prisons and jails with the coronavirus and they are disproportionally African American and Latino.
 
Those who are pretrial detainees who have not been convicted, and are in county jails as well as state and federal prisons, are facing death sentences because they are not being tested for COVID-19.  The health of elderly inmates is compromised by preexisting conditions and exacerbated by age.  

Many who are not  given a life sentence or the death penalty by the judge in this era COVID-19 may be faced with unexpected death if incarceration continues.
 
Rainbow PUSH Coalition ministers request that the Governors of Pennsylvania, New York, Illinois, Michigan, California, Louisiana, Georgia, Ohio, Wisconsin, Texas, Florida, Mississippi, and every other state that has a high population of incarcerated seniors, release all persons who are classified as senior citizens immediately on electronic monitoring devices and complete the remainder of their prison term under house arrest.
You can't lock up a virus - Let our people go
Rev. Dr. Frederick D. Haynes III
A sick nation is ripe for the spreading of a deadly virus. Dr MLK said this nation is sick.

The Coronavirus crisis has and will continue to spread through the broken systems in the body politic of this nation. One of the broken systems is the criminality of the criminal justice system.

It’s impossible to lock up a virus. Infection anywhere is a threat to good health everywhere

Rev Jackson makes the point that the United States is 5% of the world’s population but we have 25% of the world’s prison population. That is sick. Mass incarceration is a product of a justice system that is criminal.

The US has 2.5 million in prison. 1/2 are Black. That’s a virus in the justice system

People in prisons and jails are uniquely vulnerable to coronavirus.

We are calling for the depopulation of our prisons and jails and we propose a plan to ensure the safety of incarcerated people, medical staff, and correctional officers.

Although people often think of prisons and jails as closed environments, they are not. Medical staff, correctional staff, and visitors come from the community into the facilities every day and then return home.

People are admitted to and released from prisons and jails, and they go back and forth to court and to medical appointments. There is ample opportunity for a virus to enter a prison or jail, and for it to go back out into the community.  

You can’t lock up a virus and it thrives among the vulnerable because it sneaks through broken systems.

Prisons and jails frequently suffer from overcrowding. Even in the best of times they are, by definition, facilities where people are placed in close contact with each other on a near-constant basis. Factor in the unique health challenges faced by incarcerated people and the limited availability of quality healthcare, and it’s no surprise that correctional facilities are uniquely vulnerable to diseases such as Covid-19.

It’s impossible to lock up a virus. Infection anywhere is a threat to good health everywhere.

We are calling for protection of those in prison and to depopulate jails.

We are calling for adherence to the 8th Amendment to the Constitution We are saying “Let Our People Go.”
  1. We need to make free testing for covid19 and, when necessary, free treatment available in our prisons and jails. The incarcerated and those who work in those facilities deserve to be protected.
  2. We have to commute the sentences of incarcerated people who are part of vulnerable populations.
  3. Correctional authorities should make telephone and video calls free for the duration of the crisis and, where necessary, work with private vendors to achieve this goal.
  4. Correctional authorities should further waive commissary fees for soap, toilet paper, and other hygienic essentials for the duration of the crisis.
  5. In Pennsylvania, the Department of Corrections increased production of antibacterial soap to ensure broad access throughout its institutions. The soap is being provided free of charge to imprisoned people. Medical co-pays have also been waived for imprisoned people presenting with an influenza-like illness.
  6. Elderly and sick people and those incarcerated for parole violations should be released or recommended for release under compassionate release provisions or another authority.
  7. The conditions for release to include incarcerated individuals who have served at least 25 percent of their sentences and who have less than 18 months remaining on their term.
  • These are just a few demands we must make to fix the brokenness and use this crisis to reimagine what a just justice system should look like.
  • Being arrested and working in jail shouldn’t be a death sentence. Jailhouses should not become pathways to funeral homes.
  • We don’t want Jesus saying of this nation “I was in prison and you and my cell became a cemetery.”
Coronavirus has made incarceration a potential death sentence
BY JESSE JACKSON
April 20, 2020
 
This week, the New York Times featured the story of how the coronavirus savaged the Federal Correctional Complex in Oakdale, Louisiana. On March 28, Patrick Jones, 49, serving a 27-year sentence for possession of crack cocaine with the intent to distribute, became the first federal inmate to die of the virus.
 
Barely three weeks later, seven inmates had died, at least 100 inmates and staff members had been infected, with more than 20 hospitalized — and an entire community terrorized. The prisoners died, unreported, unknown, their bodies essentially owned by the federal government that imprisoned them.
 
According to corrections officers there, the warden was slow to act, saying that “we live in the South and it’s warm here. We won’t have any problems,” a haunting illustration of the dangers of loose rhetoric and tall tales from the president, amplified on social media.
 
The horrors of the Andover, New Jersey nursing home — with at least 70 residents dead and dozens more testing positive — has dramatized the vulnerability of the elderly in nursing homes, where over 7,000 have died. Our grossly overpopulated prisons and jails are quickly becoming the next centers to be ravaged by the disease.
 
Cook County Jail, the largest in the country, is already one of the nation’s largest sources of infections, with more confirmed cases than the USS Theodore Roosevelt or the New Rochelle, New York cluster. Four inmates are dead and 215 have tested positive, as have 191 correctional officers and 34 other sheriff’s office employees. One employee just died.
 
We know the most about Cook County because Sheriff Tom Dart has been the most open. Many are suffering and dying of COVID-19 because sheriff’s offices around the county have not been very open and are not testing. The jail is overwhelmed. The sheriff and jail workers need more hands on deck. For every shift change, the virus is recycled in the community.
 
A state prison in Ohio is now the largest reported source of coronavirus infection in the United States. I called President Trump and urged him to make testing, tracing and social distancing a priority for those in jails, nursing homes and prisons. The workers, inmates and communities where the workers live all need help.
In Ohio, 2,300 prisoners in three prisons have tested positive. In prisons and jails across the country, inmates locked up for nonviolent crimes or while awaiting trial, and older, vulnerable inmates near the end of their term, among others, sit in terror, fearful that they face a death sentence.
 
Prisons and jails are virtual petri dishes for the virus. Social distancing is impossible. Soap and water are often not available.
 
Correctional officers have no choice but to mix with inmates. Many inmates are poor, often with health problems — asthma, diabetes, heart conditions, stress — that make them more vulnerable to the virus.
 
Prisons and jails have begun — although far too slowly — to react. Cook County Jail has reduced its population from 10,000 to 4,200, partly because of bail reform, some from courts sentencing fewer nonviolent offenders to prison, some from early release. Soap and disinfectants have been made available. Those with symptoms are isolated from the general population. Visitors and volunteers are not allowed, often at great psychic cost to inmates.
 
Facilities are cleaned more frequently. In some prisons, inmates have been locked in their cells for 22 hours a day to limit human interactions.
 
But — as is true for the general population — testing is often not available. Too few are tested too seldom. That puts not only prisoners but corrections officers and their families, and the people they interact with at risk.
 
Not surprisingly, prison uprisings have begun, as terrorized inmates demand protection and more information. Corrections officers have joined in lawsuits to get adequate protective equipment, information, and testing. Too often, it is too little and too late.
 
There is no defense. Clearly, at the federal and state level, prison officials should speed the release of nonviolent offenders, of the elderly and the vulnerable. Universal testing is an imperative. Prisoners need more access to soap and water. And both prisoners and corrections officials need protective gear — from masks to gloves — and, most of all, information on how to protect themselves.
 
Donald Trump informed me that he had made his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, the point person on prison reform. The time for aggressive action is long past. Prisons should be made a priority for supplies, for tests, and for early release of as many inmates as possible, particularly the elderly and the vulnerable.
 
If the pandemic continues to spread through prisons, the toll in lives will soar.
 
As the pandemic exposes once more, it is a moral outrage that the U.S. locks up more people than any other country, including China. Prisoners are disproportionately poor and people of color, too often victims of institutionalized racism that still puts African American young men at greater risk of being stopped by police, charged, and jailed if convicted.
 
Even without the virus, that is a disgrace. Now the virus is turning incarceration into a potential death sentence.
 

 
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Rainbow PUSH Coalition · 930 East 50th Street · Chicago, IL 60615 · USA

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