Mothers Are Pushing to Free Their Children From Prison During COVID

“Mom and Pops,

I could no longer breathe too good. So I alerted the med tech. I was tested for COVID-19 and it came back positive. Right now, I’m in the south house in a cell by myself. I love you guys very much.”

This is an email that no parent should ever have to read. Matthew Echevarria, a survivor of Chicago police torture who was convicted of a crime he did not commit, sent this email to his parents Denise and Brian Bronis from Menard Correctional Center where he is currently incarcerated.

Matthew is one of 30,888 people incarcerated in an Illinois prison in perpetual fear of dying in a cage from COVID-19. South House, as Matthew refers to it, is a portion of Menard that had deteriorated so much that it was closed down. 

According to Matthew’s mother, Denise Joyce-Bronis, South House is a decrepit mice-infested area that is now being used as a quarantine space for inmates that test positive for COVID-19. Like many other sick inmates, Matthew’s health got to a near fatal point before he alerted the medical technician out of fear of being put in South House.

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1 In 5 Prisoners In The US Has Had COVID-19, 1,700 Have Died

One in every five state and federal prisoners in the United States has tested positive for the coronavirus, a rate more than four times as high as the general population.

In some states, more than half of prisoners have been infected.

As the pandemic enters its 10th month — and as the first Americans begin to receive a long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine — at least 275,000 prisoners have been infected and more than 1,700 have died.

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At A Time Of Pandemic, My Clients Keep Dying

I opened my email at 8:30 in the morning and my heart sank.

A “dear subscriber” notification, simple and plain, told me that my client Richard was no longer in Graham Correctional Center because he was deceased. There was no further information, no condolences offered, no way to follow up.

Had I not signed up for these notifications — status updates that are useful when clients are transferred from institution to institution — no one would have told me that he died.

Richard, an affable and religious man who was bombarded by love from family and friends, was 71 when he died. When I met him earlier this year, he had served 37 years of a natural life sentence for robbing a grocery store in Champaign, Illinois, one of hundreds of mostly Black men condemned to die in prison on his third strike.

He never hurt anyone, in that case or in any other.

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End IL Prison Lockdown Holiday Photo Testimony Form

This December, the End IL Prison Lockdown Coalition is asking those with loved ones in prison to share a photo of themselves and testimony about COVID-19 and Prison Lockdowns.

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Prison Pandemic

Since mid-March, people incarcerated in Illinois prisons have been on lockdown, locked in a cell for 23.5 hours a day.

COVID-19 guidelines are not being followed by prison staff, COVID-19 is still spreading, people are still dying.

On Tuesday, December 15th at 11am, the End IL Prison Lockdown Coalition will hold space outside of the Thompson Center, urging Governor Pritzker to immediately address the crisis of COVID-19 in Illinois prisons.

#WhereAreYouPritzker

#SupportParoleIllinois

Parole Illinois is pushing for policy changes that help reverse cycles of violence and incarceration and give people fair chances to be reviewed for release.

We are almost halfway through the month and we need help reaching our fundraising goal.

Support Earned Discretionary Reentry in Illinois. Make a donation.

CLICK HERE TO DONATE

We need resources to bring change to Illinois. Thank you.

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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