There are a lot of Black people incarcerated across America making up about half the jail and prison population while representing only 13% of the United States population. Any talk about how to manage the incarcerated during the coronavirus pandemic obviously involves close to as many white inmates as it does Black and Brown inmates.
In today’s Delaware County Daily Times, Kaabeer Weissman, co-founder of DelcoCPR, advocates for the release of prisoners held at the Delaware County prison. Her ask is almost identical to what the Congressional Black Caucus proposed in a letter to Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer last week in hopes that Black people’s issues are considered in the next package of federal resources for individuals, families, businesses, and communities.
“The goal has to be to release as many people as possible as soon as possible,” said, Kabeera Weissman.
She called on police officers to file criminal complaints rather than making arrests when possible.
I get where she’s coming from, but if her intent is to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the prisons, letting criminals roam free, especially in poor communities, is the last thing that needs to happen.
If there’s ever a time a city like Chester needs more protection, it’s now. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and people are going to get more desperate as time passes. Many people in this community are already in poverty; working pay check to pay check if they are working at all; struggling to eat and feed their kids out of school; and may not qualify for a check from the government for one reason or another. There’s probably going to be relief for mortgage payers but I don’t hear anyone talking about providing relief for renters. You may not get evicted now but you still owe your rent.
I assume she isn’t advocating for the worst of our violent criminals going unchecked, but is that what the criminals are hearing when she says stuff like this? Should a police officer have to make a decision on the spot on what applies now as opposed to what applied last month when it comes to taking a criminal in? Is all these new policies going to be figured out in the next 20-minutes and rolled out across the board by tomorrow? If not, let’s spend our energy elsewhere.
As the funny lady on the YouTube video says, ‘Ain’t nobody got time for that.’
I’m am not a fan of GEO, but I have to side with them with this statement…
“These are unprecedented times when we all need to work together to combat COVID-19 (coronavirus). We have been working around the clock with state and local health officials to stop the spread of the virus and we are strictly adhering to all CDC guidelines. It is with hope that individuals and groups would be more focused on being part of the solution instead of political agendas in times of crisis.”
How prisoners live is not much different than how real people live in row homes, public housing, senior living centers, apartment complexes, high rises, or anywhere else people are stacked on top of or next to each other. What we learn from how prisons handle coronavirus can be applied many other places.
I’m all about prison accountability and watchdogging, and it surely should take place during this pandemic. We’ve got to trust they’re going to do what they can to protect their employees and the inmates. When it’s all over, we’ll look back and study the decisions they made, measure the results, and demand policy adjustments where needed.
Below is the Congressional Black Caucus’ ask to Congress regarding the incarcerated. It’s an interesting read…
Millions of currently incarcerated individuals are at risk of COVID-19 without the ability to take any steps to protect themselves. They are our responsibility and we must take actions to ensure their health and safety. Unlike the general population, correctional staff, personnel, and incarcerated persons cannot practice social distancing due to overcrowding and the restrictive nature of detention facilities. As a result of close confinement, the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak in these facilities remains high.
Measures must be immediately implemented to protect the lives of the men, women, and youth who are currently in custody and the newly arrested, as well as to protect the staff and personnel who are responsible for their care.
- Release all juveniles who have committed a non-violent crime;
- Ensure all incarcerated individuals and staff are tested for Coronavirus, including everyone in custody, those going into custody, and those who are scheduled for immediate release;
- Prioritize releasing incarcerated individuals in prisons, jails, and detention centers through clemency, commutations and compassionate release;
- Allow immediate temporary release to home confinement of individuals who are a low-risk threat to the community, but to whom COVID-19 is a high-risk threat, which should automatically include (1) pregnant women, (2) adults over the age of 55, and (3) those with serious medical conditions, but could extend to those who are near to completing their sentence, low risk offenders, and those who have not begun their sentence, unless they pose a risk of serious injury to a reasonably identifiable person;
- Provide $4 billion for Second Chance Grants, with priority given to community based non- profit organizations, to ensure individuals released from custody have the resources needed to successfully reintegrate into their communities;
- Limit transmission in Bureau of Prisons (BOP), State and local correctional facilities by immediately providing the resources necessary to implement CDC protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as functioning sinks with antibacterial soap, hand sanitizers, and unlimited paper towels, increasing laundry services for clothing and bedding, as well as instituting measures to protect individuals responsible for providing laundry and cleaning services;
- Agree that solitary confinement is not medical care and establish a Medical Emergency Plan with designated housing areas, including the tracking all suspected cases of COVID- 19 and available hospital beds and necessary equipment, the hiring of medical professionals capable of responding to COVID-19 inside facilities, and the development of a plan to transfer those who need intensive care to hospitals;
- Employ technology to preserve families and their visitation needs, including providing video conferencing and calls free of charge; and
- Provide Paid Sick Leave for personnel who are unable to work as a result of exposure to COVID-19 and require the establishment of an emergency contingency plan for the effective operation of facilities.