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Connecticut Must Pass Legislation To Protect Incarcerated People

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Friday, March 25, 2022

Contact:  Yonah Zeitz, yonah@katalcenter.org | (347) 201-2769

Follow on Twitter @KatalCenter | #FreeThemNowCT 

Connecticut Lawmakers Must Pass Legislation to Legitimately Decarcerate and Protect Incarcerated People from COVID-19 this Legislative Session 

Hartford, CT: Today, the Joint Committee on Judiciary is holding a public hearing on SB 460, An Act Concerning Compassion or Medical Parole and Credits Awarded for Release During an Emergency Declaration. As we enter the third year of the pandemic, Connecticut remains without a legitimate, comprehensive, or transparent plan to manage COVID-19 in the Department of Corrections (DOC). To date, more than 90% of people detained in jails and prisons in the state have tested positive for COVID-19; in Connecticut, less than 20% of the general population have tested positive for the virus.

Statement from Kenyatta Muzzanni, Director of Organizing, Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice. 

“Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, we have demanded Connecticut develop a comprehensive and transparent plan to protect incarcerated people from the COVID-19 pandemic. While we support the intent of SB 460, the bill as written does not go far enough to decarcerate prisons and jails – which is the number one recommended public health response to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 correctional facilities. In both mechanisms of release in this proposed legislation, there are significant charge carve outs that will limit the decarceration efforts and prevent the release of people to protect them from the virus.  

This legislation creates yet another panel, this time within the Board of Pardons and Paroles (BOPP), to decide who is eligible for compassionate or medical parole. Pre-pandemic and throughout the pandemic, the BOPP has been notorious for denying people releases regardless of their merits. Moreover, a public health expert is not required to sit on the panel, which questions the efficacy of the Board to effectively release people in light of the pandemic. 

For these reasons, SB 460 falls short of having a significant impact on slowing the spread of COVID-19 in state correctional facilities. The General Assembly must significantly amend this legislation to protect incarcerated lives during the COVID-19 pandemic and future public health crises. Without action from lawmakers this session, COVID-19 will continue to spread throughout Connecticut jails and prisons, disproportionately impacting Black, brown, and poor people.”   

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