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RELEASE: Families, Community Groups, and Directly Impacted People Protest Outside DOC Headquarters

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Katal Center Equity, Health, and Justice 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Wednesday, September 7th, 2022

Contact:  

Yonah Zeitz, yonah@katalcenter.org | (347) 201-2768

Follow on Twitter @KatalCenter | ##FreeThemNowCT

 

Families, Community Groups, and Directly Impacted People Protest Outside DOC Headquarters to Demand Governor and DOC Protect Incarcerated People from COVID-19

Governor Lamont and the Department of Correction Must Take Urgent Action to Develop a Substantive COVID–19 Plan for Jails and Prisons 

Hartford, CT—  Today, family members of incarcerated people, community groups, and impacted people gathered at the Department of Corrections Headquarters in Wethersfield to demand that Governor Lamont and the DOC develop a comprehensive and transparent plan to address COVID-19 in jails and prisons in Connecticut. Without developing a substantive plan, Governor Lamont is continuing to subject incarcerated people to heightened risk of illness and death. 

For over two and a half years, Governor Lamont has failed to address the crisis in prisons and jails, leaving incarcerated people – disproportionately Black, brown, and poor people – in harm’s way. COVID cases continue to spread in correctional facilities in Connecticut, and now the state is facing other public health emergencies. As of August 28, over 90% of the CT state jail and prison population have tested positive for COVID-19, totaling almost 9,700 people in state jails and prisons. This infection rate is significantly higher than the general population in the state. Since the onset of the pandemic, public health experts have repeatedly affirmed that the number one way to protect incarcerated people and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 is further decarceration. 

Without action from Governor Lamont, COVID-19 will continue to spread throughout Connecticut jails and prisons. We have a duty to protect incarcerated people and their loved ones, and that begins by getting people home instead of in an unsanitary, congregate setting like a jail or prison. Since the onset of the pandemic, 30 incarcerated people have passed away from COVID-19 thus far. This is unacceptable. Without action, there will be more deaths.

Statements from Katal members, family members of people incarcerated in Connecticut, and allies:

Kenyatta Muzzanni, Director of Organizing at the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice, said: “We are more than 2 years into this pandemic, and Governor Ned Lamont still hasn’t developed a pandemic response plan in the Department of Correction. Nearly all incarcerated people in state jails and prisons have tested positive for the virus since the pandemic began. This underscores the urgency to develop a comprehensive and transparent plan, something Governor Lamont has refused to do for years. Since the pandemic began, community members, groups, and public health experts have called for Governor Lamont to develop a clear, coherent plan for reducing the impact of COVID-19 in correctional facilities, including the rapid release of people from jails and prisons. Governor Lamont has continued to disregard the recommendations of community groups, public health experts, and family members of those incarcerated. We’re here to demand that Governor Lamont develop a COVID-19 plan for the DOC, and for emerging public health crises.”

Tiffany Minakhom, Member of the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice, said: “Another year has gone by, and Governor Lamont still hasn’t come up with a pandemic response plan to help incarcerated people. People have died. Thousands more have tested positive for COVID-19. Children have gotten sick with the virus in state juvenile facilities. When will it be enough for the Governor to act?  We’re here to say no more, and demand that he protect incarcerated people by developing a pandemic plan that includes decarceration. Free them now!”

Casey Russo, Member of the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice, said: “We’ve all been impacted by COVID-19. Many of us have been able to control our environment to keep ourselves safe, but incarcerated people don’t have that control. The DOC hasn’t provided adequately for their needs. This pandemic isn’t over, and there will be future pandemics. I have a loved one who is incarcerated. I think of him, and others like him who are locked up. Incarcerated people aren’t disposable –they’re human beings. Governor Ned Lamont needs to develop an explicit, transparent, and comprehensive COVID-19 plan in the DOC.”

Lynn Ofori, member of the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice, said: “It’s offensive that Governor Ned Lamont still hasn’t come up with a comprehensive and transparent COVID-19 plan for the DOC. The horror stories in the DOC are enough to show that the DOC can’t safely and with dignity care for incarcerated people during this pandemic. We need a comprehensive and transparent public health response plan for this pandemic, and for future health crises. There’s going to be new spikes of COVID, the flu, and other public health issues. This plan will be the blueprint and should include provisions that guarantee adequate PPE, decarceration, and more. We’re here at DOC Headquarters to tell them we’re not going anywhere until they implement a plan.” 

Claudia Cupe, member of the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice, said: “I know first-hand why Connecticut needs a comprehensive and transparent plan for COVID-19 in the DOC because I have two loved ones who are incarcerated. They tell me about the nonsense that’s going on behind prison walls that most people can’t see. The DOC isn’t safe for anyone, especially right now as they scramble trying to handle the pandemic, and they’re fumbling the ball. They don’t have proper PPE for people, they use watered-down blue ‘cleaning’ products, and they don’t have proper social distancing. There have been 30 deaths under the Governor’s watch – we say no more!”

Liv Rinkes, member of Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice, said: “The Department of Corrections didn’t provide quality health care for incarcerated people pre-pandemic, and we know the situation is worse now during the pandemic. That’s why we’re here, to protest the fact that CT is subjecting thousands of incarcerated people to live in unsafe and unsanitary conditions during a global pandemic. We’re in the middle of COVID-19 now, but there are other things that can be transmissible in cramped, congregate places like correctional facilities. Governor Lamont needs to develop a plan for COVID-19, and for future public health crise. That also includes addressing the health needs of those who are incarcerated and taking steps to decrease the prison population. That’s why we’re here to demand that they Free Them Now!”

George Davis, Co-Founder of Men Stand Up Against Violence and Hartford Resident, said: “I’ve been in the DOC before – I spent 5 years there. They treat incarcerated people like meat, packaging them and keeping them locked together on top of each other. We’re spending $42,000 a year to keep people incarcerated, and for what? A pair of khakis, 3 hots and a pot? That’s money that could go into our communities to keep people safe. People keep catching COVID-19 in DOC because they’re not seperating people who test positive from others who aren’t. You may get rid of COVID in a dorm today, but tomorrow, someone else is going to get it in another. The Governor needs to re-evaluate how they are doing things, and actually develop a COVID-19 response plan for the DOC.”

H.G., incarcerated person at Cheshire Correctional Institution, said: “The DOC isn’t doing anything to prevent the spread of COVID-19. If anything, they’re stoking the flames. We haven’t had hot water for weeks in the prison (it feels like a petri dish in here), the cleaning staff don’t have PPE and use diluted cleaning supplies, and the medical staff don’t sanitize before or after clients (they don’t even wear gloves to take blood). There’s black mold everywhere, the water causes your skin to be irritated, and the food is all full of soy products that don’t give you the proper nutrients to stay healthy if you get sick. None of this is effective to battle COVID! The CO’s even misuse the COVID-19 guidelines to keep people in their cell for longer. I suspect this is similar at the other prisons because of how the DOC operates. We need a plan in here to protect all of us. The Governor must do something – we’re his constituents too.”

Alize Jones, Hartford resident, said: “COVID-19 is much more dangerous for individuals who are incarcerated, and the stress and shared experience of incarceration affects their families who are worried about their loved ones. I know this because I’m formerly incarcerated and dealt with it myself. The fact that Connecticut doesn’t have a plan to help these people is not right. Medically, incarcerated people are at a disadvantage due to the fact that in order to see a medical professional, they need to sign a request form and wait for a response from the DOC. From my own experience, I know that this may take days and even weeks for a response and COVID-19 doesn’t wait for their bureaucracy. A lot of times, they don’t even take your medical complaints seriously, and they send you back to your cell with no solutions. The DOC only cares about the money they receive from incarcerating people, not about people’s wellbeing. Governor Lamont needs to come up with a plan to help people during this pandemic, and then some.”

Natasha Napoleon, Hartford resident, said: “My mother in-law was arrested in mid-August, and after a week of being incarcerated, she tested positive for COVID-19 in the DOC. While she waited for her court date, which was set for last week, she was unable to come to court due to having the virus. No one notified us (her family) about her having COVID-19, nor have I been able to speak with her regarding her case, symptoms, or a rescheduled court date. She is an older woman, which makes her more at risk for complications from COVID-19. More than that, she is a friend, a mother, a grandmother, and a human being who deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. She doesn’t deserve what’s happening to her because the Governor has failed us for over 2 years in this pandemic. This is why there needs to be a comprehensive COVID-19 plan in state jails and prisons, and the Governor has to implement it now.”

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