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As CT Prepares to Re-Open, COVID-19 Explodes in State Correctional Facilities; Over 100 Incarcerated People Test Positive for COVID-19 at Osborn Correctional
After Months of Inaction for Incarcerated Populations, State Finally Begins Mass Testing Inside Correctional Facilities
With Coronavirus Continuing to Spread in CT Prisons and Jails, Lamont Must Release Incarcerated People to Save Lives
Hartford, CT – Yesterday, alarming news came out of Osborn Correctional, as more than 100 incarcerated people, most asymptomatic, tested positive for COVID-19. This is a horrific, life-threatening situation, but it does not surprise the family members and groups who have been relentless in their demands that Lamont take meaningful action to mitigate the spread of the virus inside jails and prisons. In the face of one of the deadliest public health crises in generations, incarcerated people and their families have pleaded with Governor Lamont to take swift action to protect the lives of people behind bars, and he has ignored them.
Since the onset of the pandemic, groups including Katal have been organizing actions demanding Lamont release as many people as possible. Just this week, on May 12th, family members of incarcerated people gathered at Governor Lamont’s mansion for a silent protest to call for action in addressing the health crisis in CT prisons and jails. But Lamont has refused to develop a robust plan to save lives and limit the spread of COVID-19 in jail and prisons. Even more, the Governor has refused to meet with family members of people who are incarcerated in Connecticut jails and prisons — the majority of whom are Black and Latinx. If he had met with the families and loved ones of his incarcerated constituents and Katal members last month, and implemented their demands for action — which are supported by public health experts and head of corrections — perhaps the spread of COVID-19 in jails and prisons could have been stemmed. Instead, the virus is spreading like wildfire in correctional facilities, and incarcerated people in Connecticut are dying from COVID-19, just as the state moves to reopen next week.
As the Department of Correction finally implements mass COVID-19 testing inside of prisons and jails, they will most likely find that the outbreak at Osborn is not an isolated incident. This is unacceptable and preventable. Governor Lamont must take action now, and the Legislature must hold him accountable. Jails and prisons are notorious incubators of contagions, due to close quarters and unsanitary conditions, meaning that Governor Lamont’s continued inaction in the midst of this public health crisis will result in more preventable deaths and only exacerbate the spread of COVID-19 across the state. Decarceration is the critical step needed to address this crisis.
Statements from Katal members and family members of people incarcerated in Connecticut:
Taylor F., a Katal Leader, said, “The state is failing families in Connecticut right now. We’re known as being a ‘Second Chance State’, and we say that proudly when we’re outside Connecticut. But at home, because our elected officials did not act, we have condemned people to a death sentence. When I talk to my friends on the phone who are incarcerated, who try to put on a brave voice in the face of what they are witnessing inside of prison, I have to say to them, ‘We have to wait until Governor Lamont does something.’ And he hasn’t. Lives are being lost, both incarcerated people and communities at large, to this virus, and that is unacceptable. We will have a second and third wave of COVID-19 in prisons and jails alone if we continue to move at this pace as a state. Governor Lamont is completely disregarding the lives of incarcerated people during the pandemic, and he needs to act now by releasing as many people as possible now.”
Candyce Scott, Katal Member, said, “What happened at Osborn Correctional Institution yesterday was horrible. I spoke with a friend of mine who is incarcerated there and he said that as of yesterday, they aren’t allowed to shower for at least 14 days, the facility lockdown, and he doesn’t know the next time he will be able to call me or his family. He is forced to take “bird baths” inside his cell, which is dehumanizing. Like so many others, he is eligible for parole in 6 months, and has not had his parole hearing date pushed up. His family is waiting for his medical records from the DOC, and they refuse to release it, a common practice by the Department to keep families in the dark. His story is like so many others in the DOC, and we need the state to act to keep our loved ones safe. Governor Lamont needs to release incarcerated people as soon as possible to stop COVID-19 from spreading in our prisons and jails.”
Imani Pennant, Katal Member said, “I know first-hand how often the ball gets dropped in the Connecticut Department of Correction, and how much power department heads yield, having just left custody in March. The conditions in the DOC are poor, disparaging, and inhumane. Since I got out and started organizing to get Governor Lamont to release incarcerated people due to the pandemic, my friends at Osborn CI have called me pleading for their lives and their safety. There is no compassion for them, as if they aren’t even human. The Governor, and the Department of Corrections, have to start prioritizing people and get our people out now.”