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Why this petition matters



It's critical that our response to this global Coronavirus pandemic protects our most vulnerable people – including our incarcerated communities.

Of the 2.3 million incarcerated people in the U.S., roughly 165,000 are over the age of 55. Compared to the general population, people in jail and prison are more likely to have pre-existing health conditions. These groups of people are most at risk of falling ill or dying from the coronavirus, or COVID-19.

Failing to act could expose tens of thousands of people in prisons and jails across the country to the virus. Given the crowded nature of our correctional institutions, an outbreak is likely and would not only endanger people in prisons but also correctional staff and outside communities.

Sign this petition if you agree that public officials should take steps to protect people in prison or jail from the virus as well as preserving contact with loved ones on the outside.

Mass incarceration has left prisons and jails highly susceptible to an outbreak given overcrowding, lack of resources, and little access to medical care. To address this situation public officials need to take steps to reduce overcrowding and ensure access to medical care as well as access to communication with loved ones. These steps include:

  • Identifying people who are scheduled to be released from prison or jail in the next six months and release them into home confinement.
  • Parole prisoners over the age of 65, with priority given to those who have underlying health conditions that make them particularly susceptible to the virus.
  • Individuals who have successfully completed at least three years of supervision should be transferred to administrative supervision or have their supervision terminated altogether.
  • Suspend copays for medical visits made by incarcerated persons. It is cruel and unusual punishment to deny access to lifesaving medical care to incarcerated individuals simply because they can't afford it. This is particularly unjust when considering prisoners often work for less than a dollar a day, including those making hand sanitizer for the state of New York.
  • Correctional facilities across the country have drastically reduced or completely eliminated visitation. In normal times, we would point to the significant evidence that sustained meaningful contact with family and friends benefits incarcerated people in the long run, including reducing recidivism. But it is even more important, in this time of crisis, for incarcerated people to know that their loved ones are safe and vice versa. While many facilities have suspended in-person visitation, only a few have made an effort to supplement this loss by waiving fees for phone calls and video communication. We must ensure FREE access to smart visitations and phone calls for all incarcerated individuals.
  • RELEASE ALL CANNABIS PRISONERS. No one incarcerated for a victimless cannabis offense should continue to be incarcerated today. Now is the time to free our cannabis prisoners and further reduce the risk of outbreaks in correctional facilities.
38,504 have signed. Let’s get to 50,000!