This Thanksgiving will look different than years past. The raging COVID-19 pandemic keeps us from welcoming family and friends into our homes. Spiking case numbers around the country mean we can’t see farther flung friends and family, to wrap ourselves in the comfort of traditions.
I hope this crisis serves to help you find new ways to embrace family and community. I hope you spend the day smiling and laughing. And, most especially, I hope you and everyone you care about stays healthy and safe. We, at Restore Justice, are immensely grateful for your continued support, your compassion, and your belief in second chances.
I am preoccupied by the idea that no matter how hard things are for me, my friends in prison and family members of people in prison are living a drawn out, virtually hidden nightmare. COVID-19 is spreading like wildfire in prisons. In Illinois, the number of cases is extraordinarily high even with a lack of testing in prisons that belies the true nature of this deadly virus.
It’s always hard for families to stay together when a loved one becomes incarcerated. COVID makes it even more difficult. The State (rightly) suspended visits in March; phone and video call use has been spotty. Mail is taking longer than normal at many facilities.
In 2021, my Restore Justice team and I will keep fighting for increased COVID-19 testing and transparency in Illinois prisons. We will keep asking for early releases and demanding more safety measures. We will push for better access to communication so families can stay together. We need your help to do this! You have fueled our work protecting people in prison. With your support, we broke through and educated government officials and the public about COVID-19 in prison. This work is becoming ever more urgent as the pandemic hits its worst levels yet!
To help us continue advocating for fairness and compassion, please join us on Thursday, December 10 at 12 p.m. for Stories of Second Chances. During our virtual hour together, we will prepare for another year in this work. You will hear from formerly incarcerated men, from mothers with incarcerated sons, and from other advocates striving to change the system—and hearts and minds. Join us! Make a donation at any level to register.
Jobi Cates, Restore Justice Executive Director