Parole Boards Approved Fewer Releases In 2020 Than In 2019, Despite The Raging Pandemic

Prisons have had 10 months to take measures to reduce their populations and save lives amidst the ongoing pandemic.

Yet our comparison of 13 states’ parole grant rates from 2019 and 2020 reveals that many have failed to utilize parole as a mechanism for releasing more people to the safety of their homes.

In over half of the states we studied—Alabama, Iowa, Michigan, Montana, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina – between 2019 and 2020, there was either no change or a decrease in parole grant rates.

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If Biden Wants To End Death Penalty, He Must Also End Death By Incarceration

In the waning days of the Trump administration, discussions often focused on the federal death penalty, as 13 people were executed between July and Biden’s inauguration. The Biden administration has pledged to eliminate the federal death penalty and incentivize states to do the same…

A Crucial Step.

However, what is often not included in this conversation is the hidden death penalty, also known as death-by-incarceration.

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New Surge Of COVID Is Spreading “Like Wildfire” In Illinois Prisons

With COVID-19 raging throughout the United States, there is a growing sense of desperation among people in prison. Pablo Mendoza, who recently got out of prison, said that those inside “are tired of the lockdown.”

They spend 23.5 hours a day in their cells. They have not had visits from their loved ones for almost a year.

Those who have caught COVID and are believed to be immune get out for yard time. Others are “weighing options,” according to Mendoza: “Stay safe, or get the virus so they can get some open air. They are willing to risk it; this is the mood right now.”

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COVID-19 Compels America To Rethink Who We Lock Up In Prison

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the limits of our criminal justice system.

Now, we have an opportunity to change it for the better. We should start by following the science, advocating for our most vulnerable populations to have access to protections, treatments and vaccines.

Then we need to ask a bigger question — whether it makes sense to incarcerate so many people in the first place.

Even as the first doses of the vaccine are administered, we are in for a tough winter. And people locked up in prisons, jails and detention centers are among those most at risk of contracting COVID-19, becoming gravely ill, or worse.

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IDOC COVID-19 Incarcerated Individual Contact Tracker

Since March, we’ve received more than 500 updates about conditions in Illinois prisons.

We are still using our tracker to monitor each prison. If you talk with an incarcerated person, please tell us about the conditions at their facility. We want to know if they have adequate access to phones and to video calls, if they are receiving hygiene and cleaning products, and whether there have been any other issues in their facilities.

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9 Demands

  1. Expand Yard Time To 2-3 Times A Week For At Least 2 Hours Each Time
  2. Grant Physical Access To Legal Materials In The Law Libraries Weekly
  3. Grant Physical Movement To Commissary Twice A Month
  4. Follow State Safety Guidelines For COVID19 In All Of The Illinois Department Of Corrections
  5. Stop Moving People Around When They Are Stable With Their Current Cellmates
  6. Respect Free Speech Rights And Do Not Censor Or Delay Mail
  7. Increase Access To Mental Health Resources
  8. Increase Access To Phone Calls, Video Visits And In Person Visits When Health Officials Deem It Safe
  9. Set A Rational Timeline Based On State Safety Guidelines To End The Lockdown

#EndILPrisonLockDowns

Illinois to Expand Testing of Prison Workers as Prisoner Deaths, Infections Surge

As the new COVID-19 surge continues racing through Illinois prisons, with a disturbing rise in inmate deaths in November plus the state’s first staff fatality, corrections officials said they will start to test all prison employees for the virus regardless of whether the workers have symptoms.

The testing will be rolled out in phases across the state, state officials said. The frequency will depend on the positivity rate of the county where the corrections facility is located but will be at least once a month, they said.

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Press Conference

Join us for a month of action this holiday season to demand that Gov Pritzker take immediate action to stop COVID deaths in his prisons.

Ten months into the pandemic, thousands of prisoners across the state remain in full lockdown, which does nothing to protect them against the virus which sweeps through bars and devastates hundreds at a time.

This Wednesday is our first event, a virtual press conference.

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Trump’s Cruel And Unusual Parting Gift: A Spree Of Federal Executions

When Yusuf Ahmed Nur, a professor at Indiana University, was asked to administer last rites to federal death row inmate Orlando Hall last month, he knew that there was a chance he would contract the coronavirus.

Prisons are known hot spots for the virus as they’re often crowded, have poor ventilation, and are filled with aging, medically vulnerable individuals. At the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana, where federal executions are carried out, at least 188 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and three have died. And yet these executions — which bring together dozens of correctional staff and witnesses, many of whom have traveled from out of state — are still being carried out, despite the danger of spreading the virus.

“I knew it was going to be a big risk,” Nur told HuffPost. “But I felt like it was worth the sacrifice.”

On Nov. 19, Nur spent more than five hours at the prison complex awaiting Hall’s execution, housed in a small, windowless room with other witnesses. When it was time for Hall to be put to death, Nur entered the chamber to administer the last rites, reciting a prayer from the Quran. He stood close to the two executioners, both of whom were unmasked. Less than a week later, Nur tested positive for the coronavirus.

He believes that he contracted the virus at the prison, as he was strictly isolating from others at the time.

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The Graying of Mass Incarceration

In 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice reported that nearly 21 percent of the nation’s prison population, or almost 300,000 people, were fifty or older. Outside prison, fifty is no longer considered elderly. But incarceration, with years of bad food, little opportunity to exercise, and inadequate medical care, accelerates the physiological aging process and often shortens life expectancy.

Between 1995 and 2010, the number of prisoners aged fifty-five or older nearly quadrupled while the number of all prisoners grew by 42 percent. At this rate, one-third of the prison population will be over age fifty by 2030. This would mean that, in the next ten years alone, 490,000 prisoners will be age fifty or older, not including people in jails.

Prisons will face an explosion of geriatric needs—and the skyrocketing costs that come with it.

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