How You Can Help People Who Are Incarcerated

How You Can Help People Who Are Incarcerated

We need to treat people who are incarcerated compassionately. Restore Justice continues to push for our original recommendations. But, we also believe we have to advocate for transparency.

The New York Times reported this week that 70 percent of the incarcerated people at one Ohio prison have tested positive for COVID-19. That report follows mass testing inside the prison, something we haven’t seen evidence of in all but two prisons or jails in Illinois. 

Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Corrections must both ramp up testing and report a robust, accurate picture of the effect the virus is having in our prisons. 

Despite recent early releases, Illinois’s prisons continue to be over capacity, and social distancing is impossible. In addition, our prison population is old and medically vulnerable. We have nearly 8,000 elderly people in our state’s custody and many more who are sick and/or disabled. In addition, Illinois’s prisons have been sued multiple times for providing inadequate healthcare. These factors combine to make those who are incarcerated particularly vulnerable. 

Governor Pritzker acknowledged these troubling realities in a recent press conference. “Please understand that correctional facilities are similar to long-term care facilities. They are congregate settings where large numbers of people eat, play, live in the same space. Being able to maintain distances is challenging. Once it’s introduced, it’s easy to spread. A lot of the strategies we employ in longer-term care, we also employ in correctional facilities,” he said. 

Now, we need to call on the Governor and county sheriffs to provide those who are incarcerated and all prison and jail staff with personal protective equipment (in addition to soap and cleaning supplies) and to accurately and completely report COVID-19 statistics. Here’s everything Ohio’s Department of Rehabilitation & Correction is reporting daily. Here’s an example from California.

If you want to TAKE ACTION, here’s what you can do: 

  1. Send this email to your friends and family members. Ask them to join us in this fight!
  2. Email your state legislators through our action network
  3. Use social media to ask Governor Pritzker to treat prisons and jails like long-term care centers. Those who are incarcerated should have personal protective equipment (as should all prison and jail staff). Use the hashtags #Twill and #StopCOVID19inPrisons. Tag the governor, @GovPritzker, on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. 
  4. Ask the Governor to report the following information every day: The number of people tested at each prison, the number of people at each prison who have tested positive, the number of people from each prison who’ve been hospitalized, and the number of people from each facility who’ve died. You can ask via social media and/or here
  5. Call the sheriff in your county and ask them to report: 1) how many incarcerated people and staff members are being tested for COVID-19 each day, 2) how many people are testing positive, 3) how many people have been hospitalized, and 4) how many people have died. (Find sheriff/jail contact information here or below. If your county sheriff or jail are active on social media, post and tag them.)
  6. Ask Governor Pritzker to report on the state’s plan to hold county sheriffs accountable for reporting and conditions in county jails
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