The highly contagious nature of the coronavirus has made large gatherings of people nearly impossible. We know that COVID-19 has affected black communities at a much higher rate than any other group, and we know that prisons are crowded, and that black people are imprisioned at a much higher rate than any other group.
Parole Illinois, Mamas Activating Movements for Abolitions and Solidarity (MAMAS), Chicago Votes, Chicago Torture Justice Center, and BPI Chicago are sponsoring a webinar “A People’s Tribunal: COVID-19 and the Crisis of Death by Incarceration” on Thursday, June 4th from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Register here.
Additional information is available on the Facebook event page.
A webinar will be held on Thursday, June 4, 2020, from 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., titled, “A People’s Tribunal: COVID-19 and the Crisis of Death by Incarceration.” This public hearing will address the harsh realities people incarcerated in Illinois prisons are facing under the COVID-19 pandemic and offer immediate and long-term solutions.
As the state moves towards re-opening, the pandemic has had a devastating impact in prisons and communities of color―and the crisis is not going away any time soon. It underscores what has been true all along―public health and humanity demands a justice system that prepares people for a healthy return to their communities. We are inviting legislators and public officials to attend because there is an urgent need for policy makers to hear straight from those who are directly impacted.
Joseph Dole, Co-founder and Policy Director of Parole Illinois, who is incarcerated inside Stateville, says, “It is high time to stop playing politics with people's lives. COVID-19 has made it undeniable that there are thousands of people incarcerated in Illinois who pose no threat to society. Political calculations are putting many vulnerable people at risk of dying in prison. Are politicians’ careers more important than people’s lives?”
Eric Blackmon, Community Educator-in-Residence at the Pozen Center Human Rights Lab, University of Chicago, states, “It's great that the people who have the power and are enacting the laws, and those that have been greatly affected and marginalized by some of these laws, are finally sharing ideas and working together to change the system for the better.”
The state is now making some attempts to contain the threat of disease by releasing people who are elderly and vulnerable, and people who pose little risk to public safety. Today, only a relatively small number of people have been released who were not already scheduled to end their sentences. With no regular mechanisms for review and release, we cannot act quickly enough to free the thousands of people who remain needless victims of COVID-19.
Passage of the bill SB3233: Earned Discretionary Release, sponsored by Senators Celina Villanueva and Robert Peters, will provide guidelines for fair and responsible release of people from our vastly overcrowded prisons.
Public health and humanity demands that Illinois prisons shift their focus from warehousing people to preparing them for safe return to their communities. This includes mechanisms to review and release people when they are ready to rejoin society. This is a necessary step to preparing for expected waves of the pandemic in the future.
This event is co-sponsored by: Parole Illinois, Mamas Activating Movements for Abolitions and Solidarity (MAMAS), Chicago Votes, Chicago Torture Justice Center, BPI Chicago.
Endorsed by: Chicago Community Bond Fund, Uptown People’s Law Center, Black and Pink: Chicago, Illinois Coalition of Higher Education in Prisons, Freedom to Learn, Chicago 400 Alliance, Liberation Library, Protect I-111, BPI, Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice, The University of Chicago Bridge Writing Workshop.
#CrisisOfIncarceration #PrisonsAreThePandemic #DecarcerateCOVID #ParoleIllinois #StopTheSpread
Top image from the Facebook event page.