ACTION STEPS

To move towards the abolition of jails, prisons, and detention centers and to build in their stead just and equitable systems that advance public health and well-being, APHA urges federal, state, tribal, territorial, and municipal governments and agencies to:

  1. Immediately and urgently reduce the number of people incarcerated in jails, prisons, and detention centers, regardless of conviction, especially in light of pressing concerns related to COVID-19 transmission;
  2. Immediately and urgently develop, implement, and support existing community-based programming interventions, including by using emergency funding, to address the medical and social needs of people who have been harmed by the criminal legal system, including those transitioning from incarceration, particularly those being released in response to COVID-19;
  3. Re-allocate funding from the construction of new jails and prisons to the societal determinants of health, including affordable, quality, and accessible housing, healthcare, employment, education, and transportation;
  4. Remove policies and practices that restrict access to stable employment and housing for formerly incarcerated people, including immediately investing in housing for quarantine purposes after release from carceral settings;
  5. Meet patient rights requirements to be in the least restrictive environment for care, by redirecting funding and referrals from jails, prisons, and involuntary and/or court-mandated inpatient psychiatric institutions to inclusive, community-based living and support programs for people with mental illness and substance use disorder;
  6. End the practice of cash bail and pretrial incarceration;
  7. Develop, implement, and support non-carceral measures to ensure accountability, safety, and well-being (e.g., programs based in restorative and transformative justice);
  8. Decriminalize activities shaped by the experience of marginalization, like substance use and possession, houselessness, and sex work;
  9. Restore voting rights for all formerly or currently incarcerated people to ensure their basic democratic right to participate in elections.

Further, APHA urges that Congress, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to:

  1. Fund research on the effectiveness of alternatives to incarceration (e.g. transformative justice);
  2. Fund research on policy determinants of exposure to the carceral system, with a particular focus on policies that disproportionately target marginalized communities;
  3. Put forth a set of recommendations that will decrease the population within carceral settings based on the principles of human rights and health justice.

Lastly, APHA calls on state and local health departments to:

  1. Provide accurate, timely, and publicly available data on incarcerated and released populations at the state and facility-level, as well as COVID-19 testing, positive and resolved cases, and mortality.
  2. Advocate for and support decarceration and defunding of all carceral facilities and systems

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San Quentin Ordered To Reduce Prison Population By 50%

The population of San Quentin state prison has been ordered to be reduced to less than half its capacity by a California appeals court.

The Associated Press reports that the court cited deliberate indifference to the coronavirus pandemic’s effect on the prison population in its decision. Unless prison officials successfully appeal the decision, they will have to transfer or parole about half of the roughly 2,900 inmates currently at San Quentin.

In its ruling, the court referred to San Quentin’s coronavirus outbreak as the worst epidemiological disaster in California correctional history.

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Prison Pandemic

5 Prisoners at Champaign County Jail have tested positive for the coronavirus.

This started when 1 of the Prisoners was taken to Carle for a medical procedure and was tested for the virus out of precaution. The rapid test came back positive.

Champaign County Sheriff Dustin Heuerman said the jail wasn’t built for a health pandemic, so they are following protocols to prevent an outbreak from occurring in the main faculty.

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COVID Crossroads For Prison Abolitionists

The intersection of a pandemic and a public uprising to address police brutality has created a unique moment in history—and a distinct moment for prison abolitionists.

Two arguments now entering the mainstream—that incarceration is an urgent public health crisis and that policing takes needed resources from communities—have long been argued by abolitionist organizers.

“Abolition is about fighting the prison industrial complex as a whole, because these violent systems are interlocking and feed off each other,” explained Mohamed Shehk, national media and communications director for the abolitionist organization Critical Resistance.

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JUNETEENTH 2020: An Extraordinary Moment

The next election should focus on creating a framework to allow people calling for the abolition of modern prisons to begin the hard work of creating new institutions.

Americans need to vote to help activists continue anti-racist work that will allow us to envision the possibility of a society that is free of racism and sexism and homophobia and transphobia.

I don’t know whether it would have unfolded as it did if not for the terrible COVID-19 pandemic, which gave us the opportunity to collectively witness one of the most brutal examples of state violence.

This is an extraordinary moment which has brought together a whole number of issues.

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2700 SOUTH CALIFORNIA AVENUE

A cacophony of car horns, drums, cowbells and trombones echoed along the strip of grass just beyond the coiled razor wire glistening in the sunlight.

A few onlookers peered from turret-like openings on the other side of the wire-topped wall to see what all the noise was all about.

“We love you!” the protesters yelled.

For the Chicago Police and the Cook County Sheriff’s Department there was only scorn, as about 150 protesters on foot — as well as hundreds more in cars — demanded the defunding of the Cook County Jail.

“We have pumped more and more money into mass incarceration and our communities are no safer. So anyone who believes this is actually working, I would question their reasoning.”

The protesters outside Cook County Jail, at 2700 South California Avenue, said money taken from the facility would be put to better use if it funded housing for the poor, mental health services and other social service needs.

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JOHN CATANZARA: TONE-DEAF TO THE CRIES OF PROTEST

John Catanzara, the new president of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police criticized officers who kneel.

He said now is not the time or place to be kneeling with protestors, and said officers would be risking being brought up on charges and thrown out of the lodge.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot called his comments really unfortunate.

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DEFUND, DECARCERATE, DISMANTLE MASS INCARCERATION

Gray wisps of smoke emanating from dark concrete. That’s what I remember from the sliver of video of the police killing of 16-year-old Laquan McDonald.

I couldn’t watch the actual shooting—my familiarity with Black death wouldn’t allow it. But I opened my eyes just as those thin wisps began to dissipate in the cool of the night air;  wisps from gunshots—16 of them—emptied into the body of a youth failed by almost all of our societal systems.

He lost his life at the hands of a state-sanctioned actor who couldn’t care less.

Defund The Police.

I get why the phrase elicits such visceral reactions and pearl-clutching in certain corners. “What do you mean, defund?” some people say. “Isn’t reform a better way of phrasing it?” Reform is a perfectly warm, comforting blanket. It is comfortable and sedating.

But it also smothers.

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YOU CANNOT FLATTEN THE CURVE IN PRISON

Across the world, the impact of the coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic has increased with each passing day.

The highly contagious respiratory illness has been deadly for many, especially the elderly and people with compromised immune systems. Across the United States, elected officials are taking unprecedented steps to protect the most vulnerable people in their communities and contain the spread of the virus.

People incarcerated in jail are one of the most vulnerable populations, and their protection warrants special emergency action.

Jails and prisons are known to quickly spread contagious diseases. Incarcerated people have an inherently limited ability to fight the spread of infectious disease since they are confined in close quarters and unable to avoid contact with people who may have been exposed.

Responses such as lock downs, placing people in solitary confinement and limiting access to visits from loved ones are punitive and ineffective responses to outbreaks. Importantly, we know that isolation further endangers people and limiting visitation also has adverse effects.

The only acceptable response to the threat of COVID-19 is decarceration.

Today there are more than 5,500 people incarcerated in Cook County Jail (CCJ). Almost all of them are still awaiting trial and thus presumed innocent under the law.

Their ongoing incarceration is an unacceptable risk to every incarcerated individual as well as public health.

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