Montgomery, Alabama -- Earlier this week SPLC Action Fund joined multiple civil rights organizations in demanding that state and local governments in the South act immediately to protect incarcerated adults and juveniles, as well as correctional employees, by releasing people who are locked up and taking additional precautions against the virus. The letter demanding immediate action is attached.
SPLC Action is joined by NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc., The Promise of Justice Initiative, Southern Center for Human Rights, Mississippi Center for Justice, Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center, Forward Justice, ACLU of South Carolina and the Arkansas Civil Liberties Union.
The following is a statement from Lisa Graybill, deputy legal director for criminal justice reform at SPLC Action Fund:
“In the miserably overcrowded prisons of the South, it is categorically impossible for incarcerated people to follow guidelines to stay six feet apart, wash hands regularly, and avoid contact with others. COVI-19 has already arrived at these facilities, infecting both incarcerated people and staf. Unless officials immediately intervene, it’s only a matter of time before a southern state experiences the type of outbreak that New York officials are now experiencing on Riker’s Island or Chicago in the Cook County Jail. But the worst case scenario is not guaranteed. If we take decisive action now in getting people out and instituting the proper procedures for the people who are left, southern states can mitigate the danger of COVID-19.”
SPLC Action previously called on southern states to ensure that the health and safety of people in jails, prisons, and immigrant detention centers in the Deep South are being protected from the virus, and release those people most at risk of suffering serious complications or death.
The demands issued this week include:
1) Release certain categories of the incarcerated population who are vulnerable to the virus and/or do not pose significant and imminent danger to the community.
2) Take precautionary measures to protect the health of incarcerated people that are in compliance with established federal guidelines.
3) Provide incarcerated people with access to appropriate medical care in medically appropriate settings.
4) Make transparent public disclosures about the COVID-19 pandemic in all correctional and juvenile facilities, including any racial disparities.