COVID19: Rikers Island Catastrophe

One inmate used an alcohol pad that a barber had given him after a haircut to sanitize a frequently used Rikers Island jailhouse phone. Another used a sock to hold a phone during a 15-minute call. A third said he and others have used diluted shampoo to disinfect cell bars and table tops. In the nearly two weeks since the coronavirus seeped into New York City’s jail system, fears have grown of the potential of a public health catastrophe in the cellblocks where thousands are being held in close quarters. CLICK


The rate of COVID-19 infection inside Cook County Jail is 27x higher than the city of Chicago and 47x that of the U.S. with 101 positive tests and 93 pending test results. In other words…Governor Pritzker it’s time to take-in these numbers, invoke the power of clemency. The moment calls for thinking outside the box, thinking outside the prison cell. Be bold. Act now.

COVID19 ALERT: Cases Double In Michigan Prisons

LANSING — The number of coronavirus cases in Michigan prisons spiked over the weekend to at least 58, plus one parolee, with four Michigan prisons emerging as hot spots. The Michigan Department of Corrections reported 20 positive prisoner tests for COVID-19 at Parnall Correctional Facility near Jackson, 16 at Macomb Correctional Facility in Lenox Township, and seven each at Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility near Ypsilanti and Lakeland Correctional Facility in Coldwater, which has a geriatric unit. The 58 prisoner cases is more than double the 24 cases reported on Friday. CLICK

Joseph Dole: Corrective Clemency

“Today it is increasingly recognized that mass incarceration is the civil rights issue of our era.” “Today in Illinois we currently have thousands of people unnecessarily over-sentenced to death by incarceration.” “Illinois has thus far failed to heed the canary’s true message and reform the state’s criminal legal system.” “It’s time for Governor Pritzker to clear Illinois’ slow death row just as Governor Ryan cleared the state’s former death row.” “It’s worth noting that by comparison a life sentence in Illinois used to provide parole eligibility after 11 years and 3 months.” To hear The Canary’s True Message, listen to …Read More →


The federal prison system has recorded its first death attributed to the novel coronavirus pandemic as criminal justice reform advocates and public health experts urge officials to consider releasing inmates to slow the contagion. Patrick Jones, 49, was transferred to a hospital from a minimum security prison in Oakdale, La., on March 19, tested positive for Covid-19 — the disease caused by the virus — and was placed on a ventilator the next day, according to a statement from the Bureau of Prisons. Jones, who had “long-term, pre-existing medical conditions” that were considered risk factors for severe coronavirus illness, died …Read More →


SACRAMENTO — California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday pardoned five people who had already served their time and commuted the sentences of 21 state prison inmates, including more than a dozen convicted of murder or related crimes. The victims were children in two of the cases and a pregnant woman in a third. The clemency requests were being considered before the coronavirus crisis, “and, as resources permitted, the governor decided to move forward with them,” spokeswoman Vicky Waters said in an email. Attorneys representing inmates asked federal judges this week to free thousands of inmates to help prisons better confront the pandemic, …Read More →


OUR LEADERS HAVE THE POWER TO RELEASE PEOPLE IN PRISON. NOW THEY MUST USE IT. State governors and the president have the authority to grant commutations and reprieves to people in prison across the country as COVID-19 spreads. As our political leaders scramble to address one of the worst health crises the country has ever experienced, it is imperative that they prioritize the release of some of the country’s most vulnerable people from prisons, where containing the spread of COVID-19  is simply not feasible. Many people in prison are over the age of 60 and have chronic medical conditions such …Read More →


Illinois prisons are a tinderbox for a potential coronavirus outbreak, but advocates and family of prisoners say the Department of Corrections isn’t providing the basic supplies to keep both staff and prisoners safe. While some advocates praised the department’s stated plan to protect prisons, they say that some individual facilities aren’t executing it. The Illinois Department of Corrections promised last week that “hand sanitizer, antibacterial soap and cleaning supplies are being made available to all staff and incarcerated individuals.” But family members of people in prisons report the supplies aren’t actually being distributed at every facility. CLICK