Release - Gov. Lamont Cancels Meeting with Family Members of Incarcerated People & Community Groups for the Second Time as Calls for Action in Face of COVID-19 Crisis Intensify

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Monday, April 13th, 2020

Contact:

Yan Snead, ysnead@katalcenter.org | (518) 360-1534

 

Gov. Lamont Cancels Meeting with Family Members of Incarcerated People & Community Groups for the Second Time as Calls for Action in Face of COVID-19 Crisis Intensify

 

With Virus Spreading in CT Prisons and Jails, Lamont’s Continued Delays Puts Incarcerated People’s Lives at Grave Risk

 

Cancellation Comes Day After Families & Constituents Hold Easter Sunday Speak Out & Press Conference at Governor’s Mansion

 

Hartford, CT – Today, after weeks of demanding action from the governor, families of incarcerated individuals and community groups were finally scheduled to meet with Governor Lamont regarding the release of people incarcerated in CT prisons and jails. But an hour before the meeting, Governor Lamont again cancelled -- the second cancellation within days, this time without rescheduling, again leaving families in the dark. The cancellation comes after an action yesterday, during Easter Sunday and amidst a life threatening pandemic, when a caravan of 35 cars filled with -- families of incarcerated individuals and community groups -- held an in-car call to action outside Governor Lamont’s home. The group demanded that Governor Lamont take action to protect the lives of people in CT prisons and jails. Instead, Lamont has again gone MIA for impacted families and for Connecticut residents detained in jails and prisons. 

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in CT last month, community groups and public health have demanded, through letters, demands statements, and actions that Governor Lamont immediately release people from Connecticut jails and prisons due to reduce the impact of the virus. Last week, family members and community groups held an in-car protest outside of Lamont’s mansion to demand action. Lamont responded by offering a meeting with the groups, which was initially scheduled for last Thursday 4/9, but it was cancelled, then rescheduled for today, Monday 4/13. The cancellation of this meeting is frustrating enough, but the absolute failure to address COVID19 in prisons and jails means people in jails and prisons remain in danger, and families have to go on knowing their loved ones are in harms way, ignored by the state’s Governor. 

As the pandemic spreads in Connecticut, Governor Lamont has refused to take the necessary preventive measures to help flatten the curve of COVID-19 within the Connecticut Department of Corrections. Jails and prisons are notorious incubators of contagions, due to close quarters and unsanitary conditions, meaning that without swift and aggressive action by Governor Lamont there will be needless deaths. Both New York and New Jersey, along with states across the country, have all begun releasing people from jails and prisons to mitigate the spread. Even the Trump Administration is planning to release some people incarcerated in federal facilities in Connecticut to limit the harm caused by COVID-19. Thus, the Trump Administration is doing more for incarcerated people in Connecticut than is Connecticut’s own Governor.

Connecticut remains a senseless outlier even as disaster strikes neighboring jail systems and it is clear among public health experts and head of corrections that there is no way to do effective infection control inside a prison or jail. We are out of time and unless Governor Lamont implements swift, aggressive system-wide releases, it is only a matter of time until the death tolls begin to rise in jails and prisons across the state. 

 

Statements from Connecticut impacted community members and incarcerated constituents, and grassroots groups:


A.C., an incarcerated person at MacDougall-Walker CI, said, “COVID-19 in prison is a viral lynching for us. There needs to be a better plan to protect all of us.”

Willie Breyette, an incarcerated person at MacDogall-Walker said, “Those of us who are incarcerated equate to money for the DOC. Our lives do not fit into the equation. We need safety in here for all of us.”

Virginia Rodriguez, fiancé of Willie Breyette and Member of the Katal Center, said, “We know that the DOC does not have adequate protection. Keeping incarcerated people locked up would be more of a risk than if we were to let them go free. This would give our incarcerated loved ones a better chance of not catching, and spreading, the virus.”

Joshua Frazer, family member of an incarcerated loved one, and Member of the Katal Center said, "I fear the time has come and passed for the Governor to act in accordance to be a politician for the people. He has cancelled our meeting for a second time. The more that he waits, the more this gets worse. All that may remain now is the potential for the death of his incarcerated constituents."

Stacey Rivera, mother of an incarcerated person, said, “My son, Alex Flemming, more than a number. He is a father, a brother, and a friend! Release our loved ones-- their lives matter! Governor Lamont needs to release them now!”

Yong X, spouse of an incarcerated person, said, “My fiancé is currently scheduled for release within the next 30 days. He, and thousands of others, can have an expedited release immediately if Governor Lamont uses his power. Some of the incarcerated people, including my fiancé, are at high risk for infection. They should not have to fear for their lives when they are scheduled for release within 45 days. COVID does not wait—why are we?”

Barbara Fair, Organizer with Stop Solitary Connecticut, said, “Sending people to a control unit (Northern) is an irresponsible approach to a health crisis. Northern is horrible on a good day. Worse for people who are ill, and it is an extremely poor decision for those who have not even been diagnosed with the virus. Where is the humanity in that? I wonder if the Commissioner and Governor attended services today condemning the crucifixion, as they crucify young men today who were sent to Northern (aka "The Dungeon") because they protested the horrible conditions they were facing behind bars!”

Cindy Prizio, Executive Director of One Standard of Justice, said, “While OSJ understands how busy the Governor is during this crisis, it has become increasingly frustrating to have delay after delay in getting a meeting with him. In the end, it may have been less frustrating to dial 211. While Governor Lamont is collaborating with a number of states on how to get CT going again, we are working on saving the lives of our loved ones.The perception of his disregard for the lives of those who are incarcerated is what makes us want to scream. All lives matter!”

Rahisha Bivens, Organizer with Stop Solitary Connecticut, said, “Decarceration is one of the most urgent public health actions Governor Lamont can take to save the lives of incarcerated people and prevent COVID-19 from becoming a death sentence. Not only is it humane, it is the most compassionate and ethical form of governing Ned Lamont could ever implement. With over 3000 people in CT incarcerated pre-trial due to not being able to afford their bond, decarceration could help balance the scales of justice and instead of unconstitutionally protecting or favoring the wealthy, we can actually ensure equity and fairness for all people.”

Carmen Lanche, Leader with Unidad Latina en Acción, said, “This is a ticking time bomb. We can’t wait. By releasing people now, the governor can save the lives of many people and alleviate the suffering of their relatives, who watch from the outside as authorities negligently fail to ensure the health of their family members who are inside.”


For more information, see www.katalcenter.org or #FreeThemNowCT, #FreeThemAllCT, and #COVIDBehindBars on twitter.

 

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