Release vulnerable incarcerated people IMMEDIATELY to prevent COVID-19 deaths

Release vulnerable incarcerated people IMMEDIATELY to prevent COVID-19 deaths

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Over the past three months, many of us have been fortunate enough to be able to protect ourselves from the COVID-19 pandemic, whether by self-isolation, access to protective equipment, or simply by being cautious with how and when we choose to be in public and interact with other people. 

Our friends and loved ones incarcerated in Pennsylvania have not had these options. 

In prisons and ICE detention centers, there is no space for social distancing, severely limited access to personal protective equipment, and wildly inadequate medical care. As of April 1st, there were only FOUR ventilators for the entire PA state prison system, which is currently operating at 92% capacity with nearly 45,000 people incarcerated.

Additionally, an estimated 100 people are locked up in similar conditions at the Berks County Residential Center, an ICE detention center that imprisons immigrant families, including children as young as two.

People in prisons have frequently already faced the impact of systemic racism in the forms of police brutality, guard brutality, and excessive imprisonment; on top of this trauma, people incarcerated in Pennsylvania face inhumane conditions that place them at much greater risk of COVID-19 exposure than the general public, with little to no recourse. There will be thousands of completely preventable deaths if we do not do something NOW.

The truth is, we already have the solution. Governor Tom Wolf HAS THE POWER to release people incarcerated both in state prisons AND the Berks ICE detention facility. We, along with dozens of organizations, have provided him with first recommendations and then demands for what actions he must take to ensure the safety of ALL. Governor Wolf is well aware of these demands, and every day he chooses not to meet them is a conscious choice to ignore tens of thousands of lives within his power to save. 

Governor Wolf can grant reprieves, a Constitutional power SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED to be free of politics and red tape in an emergency such as a global pandemic. He could let these vulnerable people go home today, if he just decided to do so. Yet he continues to drag his feet, issuing a watered-down order on April 10th including unnecessary stipulations that drastically reduced the number of people that should have been eligible for release under CDC guidelines from nearly 20,000 to just 1,800. Beyond that, he included language granting approval over reprieve eligibility to the courts, the DOC, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, and the state District Attorneys. As a result, fewer than 150 of the eligible 1,800 people have even been released since the order was issued.

THIS DOES NOT NEED TO KEEP DRAGGING ON. Governor Wolf can act AT ANY TIME to issue a new, more expansive order of reprieve, and shut down the Berks County detention center for good.

Adapting from the March 18th and April 22nd letters written by ACLU-PA, Amistad Law Project, and the Abolitionist Law Center, as well as ACT UP Philly’s May 6th demands, Inside Justice’s May 5th demand, and the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition's December 19, 2016 demand, we have compiled the following list of demands for Governor Wolf’s path forward: http://bit.ly/freepeoplestrike

All we ask of you is that you sign on in support of our demands, and contact Governor Wolf TODAY to make your voice heard. Let him know that Pennsylvania will not stand for this neglect of our vulnerable friends and loved ones in the face of such a serious threat. He must act now to free our people before it’s too late, and with your help we can make sure that he does.


CALL IN to Governor Wolf’s office at (717) 787-2500 -- call script available here

AND

WRITE IN to Governor Wolf's online form

 

Register to get involved here