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statement: second incarcerated individual dies of covid-19 in the last seventy-two hours, making this the tenth incarcerated individual in the connecticut department of corrections to pass away from covid-19

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Kenyatta Thompson, | (860) 937-6094

Yan Snead, | (518) 360-1534

Follow on Twitter @KatalCenter | #FreeThemNowCT #COVIDBehindBars

Second Incarcerated Individual Dies of COVID-19 in the Last Seventy-Two Hours, Making this the Tenth Incarcerated Individual in the Connecticut Department of Corrections to Pass Away from COVID-19

With over 1700 Incarcerated Individuals Testing Positive for COVID-19 and the Virus Continuing to Spread, Governor Lamont and the Legislature Must Develop a Comprehensive Plan that Will Immediately Release Incarcerated People to Save Lives

Hartford, CT – On Sunday, a tenth incarcerated person in Connecticut passed away due to COVID-19 in the Department of Corrections (DOC), and this comes three days after the death of another incarcerated person on December 4th. This tragic death underscores the urgency to develop a comprehensive COVID-19 plan in the Department of Corrections, something Governor Lamont has refused to do.

Katal offers our condolences to the family of the latest victim of COVID-19 in the Connecticut Department of Corrections. Without action from the Lamont Administration, it is clear there will be more needless and preventable deaths. Since the onset of the pandemic, 1,749 incarcerated individuals have tested positive for COVID-19, and ten incarcerated individuals have passed away across Connecticut jails and prisons due to the virus. Recently, York Correctional Institution, Connecticut’s women’s prison, went on lockdown after 23 incarcerated women tested positive for COVID-19. And given that Black and Latinx communities are being hit particularly hard by COVID-19 and are also disproportionately incarcerated in CT prisons and jails, inaction on COVID-19 in prisons and jails will just exacerbate the impact of the pandemic on people of color in our state.

In their latest press release regarding this recent COVID-19 death, the DOC stated that “the Department of Correction, the State of Connecticut, and the Nation at-large are experiencing a spike in Covid-19 positive cases.” However, the Governor and the DOC continue to fail to heed the advice of public health officials and epidemiologists who call for immediate decarceration of jails and prisons. In October, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a major report calling for large-scale releases to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and new research in the Annals of Epidemiology emphasizes the need to decarcerate to significantly limit the spread of COVID-19 in correctional centers. Both reports directly align with demands set forth by family members of incarcerated people and community groups across the state.

As we approach the 2021 legislative session, it is inexcusably clear that Governor Lamont will not act, the Legislature must move swiftly to pass bills requiring preventive measures to release incarcerated individuals and build a comprehensive plan for pandemics like COVID-19 to save lives and keep ALL constituents safe. Without action, there will be more needless deaths.

Statement from Raquel Leiva, Member of the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice: 

“The Department of Corrections has a long history of inefficiency and indifference towards their treatment of incarcerated people. Their policies are written so as to fall just outside what has been defined by the US Supreme Court as cruel and unusual punishment. While their policies may say one thing on paper, incarcerated people see something entirely different. The DOC lacks accountability or oversight in how they respond in times of crisis. My husband is incarcerated at MacDougall-Walker, and he told me of the most recent death before it was released to the public.

In my six-year marriage, I have learned from him, a person known and respected for his honesty, about what really goes on in the DOC. It is the stuff of horror movies. Treatment for COVID-19 follows the same long history of medical negligence in the DOC. Incarcerated individuals are often trained to hide their pain, and many do so out of fear of being put in solitary confinement if they do have COVID-19. From what I hear from my husband, the only COVID-19 testing to occur in his facility has been in response to those who could no longer hide symptoms. That is cruel and unjust, and exposes a system that is not working.

During the pandemic, several lockdowns have happened erratically and without warning. If I don’t hear from my husband one day, all I can do is wait. I watch the news to see if someone died, maybe it was him. If there is no news, I still cannot assume that the news is good.

I’m frightened for him, and the 9,000 others like him locked up in Connecticut. Because the DOC in Connecticut practices a punitive model, and not a rehabilitative model despite their assertions, society at-large pays the price. Over 90% of all incarcerated people will come home in our state. They are parents, siblings, children of people like you and me.

We all lose when we don’t care for incarcerated people. This is why it is so important that people like us are trying to ensure their safety. We need to #FreeThemNowCT.”


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