PUSH’s Criminal Justice Project calls for release of seniors in U.S. prisons

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Rev. Frederick Douglas Haynes, III

Rev. Dr. Frederick Douglas Haynes, III, Chair of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition’s Criminal Justice Project, is seeking to minimize the loss of life in prisons where the incarcerated are existing in conditions where they cannot follow the protocol of physical distancing, are without hot and cold running water and are forced to survive in cells that are in many instances unsanitary.

Most of prisoners aren’t tested causing the virus to spread widely in the congested condition of the prison environment. In one Ohio prison, 73 percent of those incarcerated tested positive for the coronavirus. Many officials are sensitive to this situation and are beginning to separate those who are positive from those who test negative. The more progressive sheriffs and wardens are moving to release non-violent offenders on electronic monitoring and sentencing them to house arrest.

We have reached out to President Trump and governors across the nation to depopulate jails and prisons to keep them from becoming COVID-19 graveyards. In this environment, the prison system has limited or no capacity to protect people from this devastating disease. Most prisons are not releasing data on how many prisoners have tested positive and the numbers who do will head the next round of tragedy. Beyond the nursing homes are the number of Americans in prisons and jails with the coronavirus and they are disproportionally African American and Latino.

Those who are pretrial detainees who have not been convicted and are in county jails as well as state and federal prisons are facing death sentences because they are not being tested for COVID-19. The health of elderly inmates is compromised by preexisting conditions and exacerbated by age. Many who are not given a life sentence or the death penalty by the judge in this era COVID-19 may be faced with unexpected death if incarceration continues.

PUSH Coalition ministers request that the Governors of Pennsylvania, New York, Illinois. Michigan, California, Louisiana, Georgia, Ohio, Wisconsin, Texas, Florida, Mississippi and every other state that has a high population of incarcerated sections release all persons who are classified as senior citizens immediately on electronic monitoring devices and complete the remainder of their prison term under house arrest.

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