Carlos DeLeon was the first incarcerated person to die from coronavirus in Connecticut. Although he was cleared for early release, he was ultimately granted a COVID-19 death sentence. As the COVID-19 pandemic worsens, we find comfort in having the privilege of taking the right precautionary measures. However, with limited medical care and confinement to small, overpopulated spaces; those who are incarcerated are at a high risk of contracting the virus. They also have little access to soap and water, lacking sanitation to keep themselves safe.
As of May 15th, there have been a number of 25,239 reported cases of incarcerated people who have tested positive for the coronavirus in the United States. These are people. With lives. With families.
Three federal prisons in California have cut off access to email and phone lines for those incarcerated, leaving them to have no contact with those outside of the jails. They justified this step by saying that it was taken to prevent the spread of the virus through touching of keyboards and handsets. These processes that the government is taking to stop the spread of coronavirus are inhumane. They are cutting off contact one has to their own family.
In Connecticut, there have been at least 526 reported cases of COVID-19. The CT DOC has done little to protect incarcerated people.
Although some inmates are given soap, others have to buy it from their own commissary. Some are given cleaning supplies in which they can only disinfect their cells once a week, others are not given any and find themselves struggling to stay safe. The conditions are unsanitary and no human should be exposed to them, especially under these circumstances.
The state has decided to move the inmates who have tested positive for the virus to the Northern Correctional Institution. However, Northern has come under scrutiny in the past for its use of solitary confinement and human rights violations. A study by Yale Law School found that Northern tends to resort to repressive measures; prolonged or indefinite isolation and intrusive strip searches. It is singularly oppressive. No human should have to experience the effect this has physically and psychologically, and especially during a pandemic.
“I know that people with symptoms will be afraid to say anything because God forbid you get transferred t Northern.” — Thomas Caves, incarcerated at Corrigan-Radgowski CI
It is highly unlikely for someone to report symptoms if they know that they will be transferred to a place that is far worse than their current institution. Transferring those who are ill to an institution that is known for its cruel and harsh punishments shows the lack of humanity within the prison system. The torture that they will experience is barbaric. What the DOC is doing is violating the rights of incarcerated people.
State courts are handling a limited number of cases, but the fact of the matter is that the luxury of time is not given to these inmates. Time is detrimental, and the DOC must act now. The release of prisoners is needed during this uncertain period.
We must acknowledge that these are human lives that are being put at risk. Therefore, everyone must call for prison abolition. Through these trying times we see how detrimental the prison industrial complex is to human lives. The very nature of prison is based on corruption and requires brutality. Putting people in cages is the most immoral act to take. It is not only disregarding someone else’s life, but it also allows the most powerful to have complete control over the most marginalized. A system built on an abusive power dynamic should not exist. Rather than calling for little reform that still contributes to the existence of these cages, we must abolish them all together.
The death penalty had been abolished in the state of Connecticut, so why are we allowing a COVID-19 death sentence?
Currently, the ACLU of CT has issued a lawsuit in which they are seeking protections for people who are incarcerated by the CT DOC. We must support this lawsuit and pressure the Governor to abide by the protections for the incarcerated.