Slow And Inadequate: A Stateville Prisoner Divulges Pandemic Horrors

As I began working with another traumatized population—the incarcerated—the healing touch of another was impossible. The only contact permitted is a handshake upon arrival and departure. Some of the men have gone as far as to tattoo that event on their body. The event of human contact, the handshake.

Jails are a holding place for most, until they receive their sentence. Those who can’t pay bail believe that they are providing cheap labor, and are being detained as long as possible prior to sentencing. One of my students has been “awaiting trial” for ten years.

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Prioritizing Incarcerated People For Vaccine Quickly Reduced COVID In IL Prisons

“One thing about prison, you don’t want to get sick in here,” says James Trent, who is incarcerated in Western Illinois Correctional Center. When the chance came to get the vaccine for COVID-19, most people inside got the shot.

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Prison Guards Across The Country Refusing Vaccine Despite COVID-19 Outbreaks

A Florida correctional officer polled his colleagues earlier this year in a private Facebook group: “Will you take the COVID-19 vaccine if offered?”

The answer from more than half: “Hell no.” Only 40 of the 475 respondents said yes.

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Vaccines Aren’t Enough To Prevent The Spread Of COVID-19 In Prisons

The lack of COVID-19 protections in prisons show officials believe that inmates are less than human, that they do not deserve to be protected from death like everyone else, and that their lives do not matter.

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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