Over 100 COVID Rebellions in Jails & Prisons

U.S jails and prisons, already death traps, have been completely ravaged by COVID-19.

Crowded quarters, a lack of PPE, inadequate medical care, an aging population, and unsanitary conditions have contributed to an infection rate 5.5 times higher than the already ballooned average in the U.S. As of this writing, over 252,000 people in jails and prisons have been infected and at least 1,450 incarcerated people and officers have died from the novel coronavirus. Evidence suggests these figures are underreported, however.

(The entire state of Wisconsin, for example, isn’t releasing any information to the public.)

In response, incarcerated people have shown strong solidarity, coming together to demand baseline safety measures and advocating for their release, only to be met with brutal repression and punishment.

According to a new report released by the archival group Perilous: A Chronicle of Prisoner Unrest on November 13, incarcerated people in the U.S. collectively organized at least 106 COVID-19 related rebellions from March 17 to June 15.

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Containing COVID-19: Jails, Prisons Ripe for Spread

Early in the pandemic, reports characterized the Cook County Jail as a congregate setting hot spot for the coronavirus.

Sheriff Tom Dart’s office disputes that, and said it’s because the jail was doing testing for COVID-19 before other places, so it’s not a fair measurement.

Regardless, Dart and the jail’s medical director Dr. Connie Mennella say they took quick action to contain the virus – temperature checks, mask mandates, moving detainees to single occupancy cells, more testing – and got it under control such that the positivity rate at the jail is now lower than it is in wider Cook County.

But as cases are exploding outside, they’re ticking up within the jail.

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750,000 People You Didn’t Know Could Vote

Renaldo Hudson knew he needed to change his life when he got uninvited from a death row birthday party, for scaring the other inmates.

He laughs ruefully telling the story now.

Mr Hudson committed murder as an abused, drug-addicted teenager, and served 37 years in the Illinois justice system. He walked out a very different man, but considers he was fortunate to emerge at all. And having worked as a peer educator in prison, he’s thought deeply about how to support incarcerated people and preserve their links to the outside world.

Now 56, he has a vocation for 2020: “I want to encourage a million people to vote!”

Why voting? Because it’s a right that hundreds of thousands of people in jail don’t know they have – and that unawareness locks them out of participating in democracy, and shaping their communities.

Mr Hudson is one of scores of activists pushing to prevent the mass disenfranchisement of up to 750,000 people in US jails.

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