#FreeThemAll - MAYOR WOODFIN, No One Should Be Caged During a Pandemic

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Nicole Estrada
Nicole Estrada signed this petition

Dear Mayor Woodfin, Chief Smith, Judge Sparks, and City Attorney King: 

We are concerned community members writing to you to emphasize your role in slowing the spread of COVID-19 in Birmingham and to urge you to respond swiftly, intentionally, and justly to this unprecedented health crisis. The COVID-19 global pandemic is expanding rapidly in our county and city, even as Alabama begins to reopen. With positive cases of COVID-19 recently confirmed in the Birmingham Police Department, it is no longer a matter of if, but when this novel coronavirus shows up in the Birmingham City Jail.

To date, we have seen the high levels of contagion in jails and many communities have released individuals as a measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within jails, prisons, and detention centers. The quickest way to protect the health of individuals incarcerated and staff and prevent the devastating spread of COVID-19 in the city jail is to immediately release everyone, starting with those who are at heightened risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19. 

When each of you began your current jobs, the people of Birmingham expected you to “be progressive”, forward thinking, and to act in the best interests of all members of the community. Now more than ever, we implore you to uphold this promise and use your roles as city leaders to release everyone from within the city jail, which is the most compassionate and effective way to stop the spread of COVID-19 during this global pandemic.

Each of your respective offices has certain powers that can not only lend themselves toward freeing those currently incarcerated, but to ending the enforcement-to-jail pipeline. 

As members of the communities you serve, we demand the following: 

Mayor Randall Woodfin:

  1. Use your clemency powers to release everyone from the Birmingham City Jail due to human rights and health concerns 
  2. Work with the City Council to decriminalize the current face mask ordinance, which disproportionately impacts minority communities.
  3. Make testing centers, COVID-19 information, and city ordinances readily available in multiple languages and in traditionally low-income and oppressed communities

Chief of Police Patrick D. Smith: 

  1. Halt or significantly reduce new arrests and transfers to the Birmingham City Jails. When absolutely necessary, issue a citation instead of taking an individual into custody
  2. End cooperation between local law enforcement and ICE, including sharing personal data and information not required by federal or state immigration laws and refusing to enforce 48-hour immigration detainer holds
  3. Publicly release a detailed and comprehensive plan for preventing the spread of COVID-19 within the city jail as the state begins to reopen 
  4. Expand access to personal hygiene and sanitation supplies for individuals currently incarcerated in Birmingham City Jails. 
  5. Access to phone calls and video “visitation” should be expanded for all incarcerated people right now and moving forward. This access should be provided free of charge.
  6. End pre-trial detention, especially in the wake of COVID-19, as it puts people at unnecessary risk. 
  7. Continue to post the roster that lists individuals currently incarcerated in the Birmingham City Jail, their charges, and number of says served.

Presiding Municipal Court Judge Andra Sparks: 

  1. Eliminate or grant low bonds for people currently in the Birmingham City Jail, without the requirement of electronic monitoring 
  2. Waive appearances at non-essential criminal court dates to avoid unnecessary travel and social contact. All in-person pretrial check-ins or other mandated appearances (such as drug testing) should also be waived

Birmingham City Attorney Nicole King: 

  1. Use discretion to refuse to prosecute individuals who have violated the Birmingham city mask ordinance as it was revised and written on May 12, 2020

Birmingham City Leaders, we hope you recognize the urgency with which these demands must be met. We call on you to immediately take the proper steps to protect the health of our community. Considering the time-sensitive nature of these demands, we expect a public response from Mayor Woodfin and others within 24 hours of receipt of this letter. We look forward to a quick and thoughtful response from you. 

Respectfully, 
The Undersigned