There are only four ventilators in the entire Department of Corrections. They are currently in use at SCI-Laurel Highlands, a state facility that houses inmates that are elderly or have several illnesses.
We do not know what resources exist in our local Philadelphia jails, which currently house 4,800 people. With the woefully inadequate resources currently at the DOC’s and First Judicial District’s disposal, anything that does not result in a mass release of people from prisons and jails would be a grave mistake. We are facing a public health hazard that will affect inmates, staff, and family members. We call on the Department of Corrections, Governor Wolf, and the First Judicial District to enact the following:
EXPEDITED PAROLE HEARINGS FOR ALL CURRENTLY INCARCERATED PEOPLE: The Parole Board must act swiftly to grant parole for all eligible prisoners. For those close to eligibility, an emergency process should be created to determine if they can qualify for early release. Now is a time for compassion, not draconian mindsets.
RELEASE ALL ELDERLY INCARCERATED PEOPLE AND PEOPLE WITH COMORBIDITIES: No one should die in prison. Our elderly and infirm, who are confined to small spaces that could easily facilitate coronavirus transmission, would be devastated by a virus outbreak in one of our facilities. The state is not equipped to protect these people, and they should be released back to their communities.
IMMEDIATELY END ALL ICE DETENTION: ICE is already a criminal agency that must be abolished. Detaining and separating families is in direct contradiction with the advice of medical professionals that recommend people stay home. They are taking away crucial resources, like masks and gloves, from our frontline workers who are combatting this crisis. ICE must decrease all activity immediately and Gov. Wolf must issue an emergency removal order (ERO) for the Berks Detention Facility.
FREE HEALTHCARE AND TESTING FOR CORONAVIRUS: There should be no barrier to treatment for anyone incarcerated who is potentially infected. To prevent an outbreak, testing should be as accessible as possible, and anyone who tests positive should be provided treatment immediately and free of charge.
RELEASE ALL PEOPLE AND JUVENILES HELD PRE-TRIAL AND ON DETAINERS OR TECHNICAL VIOLATIONS: The majority of people held in Philadelphia jails have not been convicted of a crime and are presumed innocent. This already immoral practice has the potential to lethally collide with a coronavirus outbreak in one of our jails. All people held, including those on cash bail and juveniles, should be released immediately.