CORONAVIRUS: The Prison Tsunami

Despite early warnings, jails and prisons have seen a rapid spread of the virus — a humanitarian disaster that puts all of our communities, and lives, at risk.

Weeks before the first reported cases of COVID-19 in prisons and jails, correctional healthcare experts warned that all the worst aspects of the U.S. criminal justice system — overcrowded, aging facilities lacking sanitary conditions and where medical care is, at best, sparse; too many older prisoners with underlying illnesses; regular flow of staff, guards, healthcare workers in and out of facilities — would leave detention facilities, and their surrounding communities, vulnerable to outbreaks.

Despite those early warnings, even jails and prisons that believed they were well-prepared have seen a rapid spread of the virus.

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GIVE IT UP FOR ARCHIE WILLIAMS!!!

Williams was released last year from a Louisiana prison after serving nearly 40 years for a rape and attempted murder he did not commit.

A fingerprint database showed prints at the crime scene matched another man, The New York Times reported, and the district attorney apologized.

“I went to prison but I never let my mind go to prison,” Williams said, adding that he prayed and sang.

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DISCUSSION OF POLICE TORTURE: Needed Now More Than Ever

Join us for a virtual roundtable discussion as we explore the power of liberatory memory work and truth-telling platforms on the five year anniversary of Chicago’s reparations ordinance for survivors of Jon Burge police torture.

The roundtable will discuss the continuing struggle for a public memorial to survivors as part of reparations.

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ICE DETENTION: Where Democracy Goes To Die

The Trump administration’s draconian immigration enforcement has triggered growing pro-immigration activism around the country, and with it, increasing public pressure on elected officials to reevaluate their relationships to immigration detention.

In the face of congressional inaction on immigration, many immigrants’ rights advocates have shifted their focus locally: to state, county, and municipal policymakers who can intervene directly in their jurisdictions to curtail ICE detention.

In response, the agency is creating a new playbook. It’s taking state and local efforts to block or limit its detention operations less as defeats than as temporary hiccups that it can overcome by pursuing direct contracts with its favored private providers. In some cases, ICE is combining this with finding jurisdictions with friendlier officials.

ICE is using private contractors to dodge local democracy.

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ISOLATION & QUARANTINE AT AVENAL STATE PRISON

130 additional people have tested positive for COVID-19, including 115 inmates at Avenal State Prison.

Positive cases of coronavirus at the prison have increased significantly since May 18.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation says the prison is currently testing as many inmates and staff as possible and following isolation and quarantine guidance to help slow the spread of the virus.

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WAR ON DRUGS: Another Casualty

Fidel Torres was sentenced to 220 months in prison way back in 2006 after he waived a jury trial and let a judge decide his fate.

Torres was convicted on a conspiracy charge for possession with intent to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana, as well as with aiding and abetting the possession with intent to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana. During the case, federal prosecutors also pointed to two previous convictions on Torres’ record, both of which were marijuana-related.

The same judge who found Torres guilty and decided his sentence — U.S. District Judge George Kazen of the Southern District of Texas — later denied Torres a sentencing reduction for which he would otherwise have qualified under revised 2014 U.S. Sentencing Commission guidelines, based on relatively minor instances of prison misconduct.

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UNMASKING AMERICAN RACISM

I was born in a pandemic, shaped in the waters of strife, separated from my mother’s life-yielding placenta, thrust into a world infected by hate.

I am black and male. Born in the USA. I wear the mask. I cannot leave home without it. This is a matter of survival.

I have learned to wear the mask. Not the one that fits over my nose and mouth snugly and held at my ears. The mask that pretends that I am not who I am. The mask that makes my male blackness less threatening, more palatable.

That projects a veiled image of me.

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SLOW MOVING WARDEN JETTISONED

Federal officials have reassigned the warden of a Louisiana prison where the coronavirus has ravaged the compound, leaving eight inmates dead and infecting dozens of other prisoners and staffers.

The Bureau of Prisons said Friday that Oakdale, Louisiana, warden Rodney Myers had been assigned to “temporary duty” at the bureau’s South Central Regional Office in Texas.

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COOK COUNTY JAIL GETS HELP FROM COLORADO NURSE

Kyle Mullica came to Chicago to fight COVID-19 on the front lines, picking one of the hottest spots in the city: the Cook County Jail.

“It was intense. It was a lot of hours. It was difficult being away from my family,” said Mullica, a registered nurse who works in the emergency room of a Colorado hospital.

He put his skills to use in Division 10, working 12-hour shifts, seven days a week, totaling five weeks straight.

“There’s this sense of duty, and a sense of calling on things like this. I wanted to use the skill that I had,” said Mullica, who also serves as a state representative in Colorado.

So with his wife’s support, he left home.

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