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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Alabama Man Dies In Overheated Prison Cell

Tommy Lee Rutledge, 44, died of hyperthermia on December 7 when his core body temperature rose to 109 degrees after his cell at Donaldson Prison in Bessemer, Alabama, overheated to more than 100 degrees.

The Montgomery Advertiser reported on Friday that the Alabama Department of Corrections refused to answer questions about Mr. Rutledge’s death, including how temperatures in Mr. Rutledge’s cell in the prison’s mental health ward soared past 100 degrees when it was 31 degrees that night.

Mr. Rutledge was initially sentenced to life in prison without parole for a crime that happened when he was 17. Equal Justice Initiative challenged the constitutionality of such sentences for children and in 2012 won a ban on mandatory life-without-parole sentences for children at the Supreme Court. EJI lawyers successfully represented Mr. Rutledge in resentencing proceedings and he was given a new sentence.

He would have been eligible for parole in three years.

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A State-by-State Look At Coronavirus In Prisons

By Nov. 17, at least 197,659 people in prison had tested positive for the illness, an 8 percent increase from the week before.

New infections the week of Nov. 17 reached their highest level since the start of the pandemic after rising sharply the week before. The new surges far outpaced the previous peak in early August.

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COVID Tears Through State Prison In Anamosa

The coronavirus is tearing through Iowa’s prisons, infecting more than 3,400 incarcerated individuals and staff and killing 9: eight inmates and one employee. The Anamosa State Penitentiary is one of the hardest-hit institutions, where more than three-quarters of the incarcerated population have contracted COVID-19.

At the state prison in Anamosa, the thing that family members and advocates have been warning of for months has happened: the prison has become a sprawling, stone petri dish for the coronavirus.

As of Friday, more than 77% of the people incarcerated there had tested positive for COVID-19, according to a state tally. Many of them are considered recovered, but three have died. Additionally, 124 staff members there have also reported contracting the disease.

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The Final Words Of John Lewis

Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. Voting and participating in the democratic process are key.

The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed.

You can lose it.

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Reality Winner Tests Positive For COVID-19

Former intelligence contractor and whistleblower Reality Winner has tested positive for COVID-19.

Winner is currently incarcerated in a Federal Medical Prison in Fort Worth, Texas, where an outbreak has sickened hundreds of inmates and killed at least two.

Winner is seeking compassionate release during the coronavirus pandemic, citing underlying medical conditions.

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They Are Burying Us Alive In Prison By Raul Dorado

There are many ways to come to prison.

You could have been raised in a segregated high-rise ghetto, removed from mainstream society and cut off from participation in the legal economy. Or you could just have been born black.

If you inhabit a black body, you’re nearly six times more likely than whites to be imprisoned, and if you reside in a brown body, you’re three times more likely to be imprisoned.

Covid-19 came to Stateville, undetected, in the bodies of the prison guards who have direct custody of us.

Prisons are long-term care facilities, but without the actual care. Just over four decades ago, Illinois fell in line behind a national trend to abandon the goal of rehabilitation in favor of punitive sentencing practices.

These practices lay the foundation of today’s overcrowded prisons that have not spared the elderly prisoner population bearing the brunt of Covid-19.

Our group is supporting a bill in the Illinois legislature, SB3233: Earned Discretionary Release.

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Raul Dorado Is An Incarcerated Writer & Co-Founder Of Parole Illinois

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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No One Should Have To Die In Prison By Joseph Dole

Every year people die in the custody of Illinois Department of Corrections, the vast majority due in part to overincarceration.

COVID-19 is highlighting this fact because it is attacking the elderly and infirm, many of whom have spent decades enduring harsh prison conditions. They die lonely deaths for no other reason than incarceration politics, and in a vain attempt to satiate the insatiable appetite some people have for revenge.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker and others have recently voiced support for early releases of “non-violent offenders,” and insinuate that this shows they still consider public safety as the main priority. Not only is this insufficient to address mass incarceration, but if public safety is the main priority, then they should have no problem releasing “violent offenders.”

That’s because people convicted of violent offenses have lower recidivism rates and even a lower likelihood of committing violence if released.

The thousands of people currently serving long sentences are doing so due to racism, fear-mongering, dehumanization, political exploitation, and the false promise that harsher sentences are needed to deter crime.

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Joseph Dole Is An Incarcerated Writer, Co-Founder & Policy Director Of Parole Illinois