COVID Clemency Caravan to DC for National Freedom Day (2/1/2021)

As a new administration enters the White House, we want to make clear, immediate demands to reduce and reverse the harm done by the past year of pandemic negligence in prisons and jails.

Join us in a spirited motorcade rally through the Capitol, while we hand-deliver our petition to the Department of Justice and incoming nominee to the DOJ Civil Rights Division, Kristen Clarke.Supporters can also join us virtually for “Stakeholders Event” at 10:30 that morning.

We demand a expedited executive clemency for prisoners, as well as investigation and enforcement action in all federal, state and local prisons to stop the rampant spread of COVID-19 among prisoners who are unable to socially distance or access proper PPE to protect themselves.Reducing the number of people behind bars must be the number one priority.While the CDC has acknowledged the danger in prisons, it has fallen short of advocating the level of decarceration that is needed to truly implement its guidelines.BACKGROUNDThere are over 6000 state, local and federal prisons across the United States. Many of them have become hotspots of Covid-19, with disproportionately high impacts among Black and Latinx prisoners, particularly in Southern states.

A recent statement from the DOJ in regards to public nursing homes offers an example of the sort of power they have to push state, federal and local facilities towards safer settings for vulnerable prisoner populationsThe Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division announced on Aug 26, 2020 that is looking towards investigations under the federal “Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act” (CRIPA), which protects the civil rights of persons in state-run nursing home facilities.

This can and should be applied to prisons and jails.In that statement, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Division Eric Dreiband stated that “Protecting the rights of some of society’s most vulnerable members…is one of our country’s most important obligations.”We agree. According to their website’s Pandemic Response Oversight page, the DOJ has completed two reports on COVID-19 in prisons (one in Lompoc, CA, the other at FCC Tucson, AZ).

This is a start, but its not enough.Research from Johns Hopkins and UCLA shows prisoners are 550% more likely to catch COVID-19, and 300% more likely to die from it than the general population.According to the New York Times COVID-19 Case Tracker, in mid-August 84 of the top 100 COVID-19 outbreak hotspots in the country were prisons and jails. Fifteen of them located in Florida’s incarceration system alone.A DOJ investigation into these state prisons systems could apply significant pressure to force life-saving changes.

If we do not get a sufficient response, we will take the issue to the United Nations to call for international attention on the reckless negligence of U.S. institutions with regards to the lives of prisoners in this pandemic.