by Abbie VanSickle
The Marshall Project
The coronavirus-stricken prisoners kept off the books. Officials in Santa Barbara County faced a dilemma weeks ago. They desperately wanted permission from California authorities to “reopen” their local economy as the coronavirus ebbed in the state. But a major outbreak of COVID-19 at FCI Lompoc, the federal prison there, had skewed the metrics. Santa Barbara resolved its problem by lobbying state officials to exclude prisoners from relevant public health analyses. “It’s a fiction,” says a justice reform advocate. It’s also a scenario likely to be repeated in other counties across the country where prisons are COVID-19 hotspots. Read more...
My mom was by my side the first time I went away. The second time was just too much.
by Daniel McCann, The Marshall Project Life Inside Series
May 21, 2020
"In silence, all I could think about was the time my mom had told me that a broken heart would be her demise. I knew that it would only be a matter of time now before the disappointment I had caused would also make me guilty of murder. My weapon? Heartache."
by Madison Alder
Judges are interpreting the law on the fly as they face an unprecedented spike in requests for “compassionate release” from prison, coming to different conclusions about what can be done in the context of a pandemic. The swell of requests for what’s known as compassionate release come after the passage of a law, written before the Covid-19 outbreak, that made it easier for those requests to be filed with the courts.
by Alex Ortiz
My Suburban Life
"Parole Illinois, a coalition of activists in and out of prison working “toward a more just and humane legal system” organized the demonstration. The group described Stateville as the “epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the Illinois carceral system.”
The Rev. Jason Lydon, a Unitarian Universalist minister at the Second Unitarian Church in Chicago, described the group of family members, advocates and faith leaders as “people of conscience coming together” to raise awareness of the situation in Illinois prisons and jails. He said the demonstration was an effort to “remind everybody that those inside the prison are not alone.”
“We are fighting hard to get them out,” Lydon said. “And to ensure that they have the care that they need.”
by C.J. Ciaramella
"The numbers and dire news stories underscore what civil liberties groups and correctional officer unions have been trying to warn local, state, and federal agencies about since COVID-19 reached the country: that jails and prisons were woefully unprepared to handle an epidemic, and that those institutions would inevitably spread the virus into nearby communities unless drastic measures were taken."
by Nick Charles
"Coronavirus outbreaks have transformed prisons into hot spots of infection, and among the societal inequalities the pandemic is exposing along the fault lines of race, class, and gender are some of the lesser known realities of mass incarceration, particularly those facing black women.
The vast majority of female inmates come from 'marginalized communities where the health care was subpar at best, and it’s even worse whatever their fragilities are, and you layer on mental illness and autoimmune diseases among women,' Donna Hylton, a prison reform activist and author, who served 27 years in an upstate New York prison, told NBC News."
by Megan Crepeau
"Jeffrey Pendleton spent much of his adult life in a cell...Warren and his surviving brother, Donnell Todd, have sued Cook County in federal court, alleging that the sheriff’s office violated his rights by shackling him to his hospital bed in his final days.
'You should not even leave a dog chained up all day, not even animals should be chained up all day. He was chained up for days. And sick,' Pendleton said.
'That was an injustice to my brother. First of all he wasn’t convicted, he was a detainee. Awaiting trial, he couldn’t even go to trial because they shut the court system down," he said. "Nobody, incarcerated or detainee, they should not be dying in there. Nobody should die in there.'"
Op-ed from Amanda Klonsky and Dan Cooper
"African Americans are jailed disproportionately..., and this crisis is further heightening racial inequality... [R]eleases have not risen to the level required to prevent mass deaths."
Now four people have died in the jail since this was written. Read more...
Clips of UUPMI Steering Committee Members Monica Cosby and the Rev. Jason Lydon in this news report about yesterday’s decarceration caravan:
"A noisy protest outside Cook County Jail occurred Tuesday as activists demand the release of all 4,500 detainees during the COVID-19 pandemic."
The Unitarian Universalist Prison Ministry of Illinois received this letter through one of our volunteer members:
"Since I've been moved to another unit, there have been multiple guys moved out because of a positive Covid19 test. The gym has been filled with tents to take the guys who are infected with the deadly virus. However, I still hear somebody throwing up each morning and a few people coughing. I wonder if they're too scared to ask for a test or their request has been denied. One inmate said to a nurse that he was having headaches, body aches, running a fever, and lost his senses of smell and taste. She said, "That's just stress; do some art or exercise." All we can do is sit back and watch all the talk on the news. We hear about individuals, first responders, and communities; but little about us. We have no voice, like we do not exist; yet, we are somebody's sons or daughters, brothers or sisters, fathers or mothers. Our lives matter too!
We are getting little information and the small motel-sized bar of Dial soap they gave to each of us is gone. We never got the hand sanitizer the governor promised. We're just sitting ducks and the governor needs to act fast on reviewing elderly incarcerated citizens who pose no threat to society. Right now, society is posing a threat to our lives by having us cluster together waiting on a viral death sentence. I've never been on death row, but I feel like I'm on it right now. There is no phone call in sight for the governor to give us a stay. I wasn't sentenced to die, so why do I feel like I am on the fast track to a death sentence.
We appreciate the governor's passionate words that all inmates placed in outside hospitals will be treated the same as everybody else, but we need action now before we start rolling into the hospital or makeshift hospitals in record numbers. We don't want to die like this. Governor, use your powers for good. We need a miracle that you can look past political backlash and act with compassion to review elderly prisoners, violent or non-violent, and let us live. Human lives are at stake, and we need a fearless leader to break new ground to save us from the threshold of certain death.
We need the governor to show his true humanitarianism to review the most vulnerable people in here to be released from this incubator. We need protection in the worst way. We didn't bring this into the prison, so we need some type of reparation to free us from this death trap. Statistics show the elderly have the lowest recidivism rates, so why keep those who pose the smallest threat to society inside a vulnerable space such as we live in right now? This feels like a death camp and I can't smell the ovens or hear the human screams but I can hear the coughing and nauseating echoes of sickness bounding off the walls in the wee hours of the morning.
Please, Governor, act now!!!"
What this is about
Learning asks us to change – so that the world might be a place for all are free to thrive