Deaths in Alabama, Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana show need for immediate action
Montgomery, Alabama -- Incarcerated people have died from COVID-19 in Alabama, Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana. These deaths have occurred while all four states have resisted efforts to significantly reduce their prison populations, and have also ignored or been slow to respond to calls to publicly reveal their plans for how they will handle a coronavirus outbreak in their prisons.
Over the last month SPLC Action Fund has repeatedly called for the release of people from prisons in the Deep South. But state officials have ignored those calls even though supported by other civil rights organizations and public health officials.
The following is a statement from Lisa Graybill, deputy legal director for criminal justice reform at SPLC Action Fund:
“State officials clearly don’t want to deal with this issue. But it can’t be ignored. The threat of a major COVID-19 outbreak in Deep South prisons is frighteningly real and the last week has shown that ignoring this issue is not going to make it go away. Releasing as possible, taking into account public safety, the medically frail, elderly and the people who are scheduled to get out of prison soon anyway, is the best answer from both a humanitarian and public health perspective.
“Prisons also need to be much more transparent than they have been. It took a week for Florida to announce the first two people who had died and we only know that Alabama anticipates widespread infections and might call in the national guard because its plan was leaked to the media. State officials work for the taxpayers of their states. They owe it to the people who pay their salaries to tell them what their plans are, especially since many who have loved ones in prisons are desperate for information.”