Release - New COVID-19 Cases in Connecticut Correctional Facilities Underscores Urgency to Release People to Save Lives

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE   

March 31, 2020                     

Contact: 

Yan Snead, ysnead@katalcenter.org | 518.360.1534

 

New COVID-19 Cases in Connecticut Correctional Facilities Underscores Urgency to Release People to Save Lives 

 

As NY, NJ and Other States Make COVID-19-Specific Decisions to Release People From Jails and Prisons, CT Refuses to Release People in Face of COVID-19 

The Healthy & Just CT Coalition Demands that Governor Lamont Take Immediate Action – Release Vulnerable Populations from Jails and Prisons to Protect Against Pandemic 

 

Hartford, CT: Yesterday, the CT Mirror reported that a person detained in the Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center has tested positive for COVID-19. As of today, a second incarcerated person, also at Corrigan-Radgowski, tested positive for COVID-19. With confirmed cases among staff and incarcerated people, COVID-19 is rapidly spreading through Connecticut’s jails and prisons – with grave threats to incarcerated people and correctional staff. To reduce serious harm and death in correctional facilities, constituents and community groups in the state have been demanding for weeks that Governor Lamont take action and immediately release incarcerated people (examples here and here). 

The novel coronavirus is spreading in jails and prisons across the country – and to prevent even greater harm and death, many states are taking action to release people. In the tri-state area, both New York and New Jersey have started to release people from jails and prisons. But, defying all logic and public health recommendations, Governor Lamont has refused to release incarcerated people in response to COVID-19. The Connecticut Department of Corrections (DOC) isn’t even widely testing people; the DOC released a memo on Friday that states that the Department had conducted only 12 tests, all but assuring that the virus is spreading without proper tracking and response. 

Lamont’s refusal to act is completely out of sync with the national trend to save lives and reduce the spread of COVID-19 in correctional settings, and is entirely indefensible from a public health perspective. In addition to New York and New Jersey, other states are releasing people to reduce the spread. Just last week, hundreds of former Department of Justice officials called on the federal government to release people from federal prisons. And yesterday in The New York Times, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, former NYC Health Commissioner Mary Basset MD, and Ford Foundation President Darren Walker penned an op-ed calling on state governments to release people from prisons and jails in the face of COVID-19 – echoing many of the same demands of community groups in CT. 

In response to this lack of action by Governor Lamont, the Healthy & Just CT Coalition released the following statement:

"Governor Ned Lamont’s inaction to address COVID-19 in prisons and jails in Connecticut is unconscionable. We demand immediate action from Governor Lamont. Throughout the country, public health officials, community groups, corrections employees, public defenders, and prosecutors have worked to release incarcerated people in the wake of COVID-19. It is time that Connecticut follows suit.

We demand that Governor Ned Lamont take immediate action to protect everyone that is incarcerated in Connecticut, regardless of their charges. The coronavirus does not discriminate—and neither should the state when determining who is deserving of help. It is imperative that Governor Lamont release incarcerated people to reduce their risk of contracting, and exposure to, COVID-19.

To slow the spread of COVID-19 both in and out of jails and prisons and prevent the needless deaths of incarcerated people, we demand that Connecticut:

  • Immediately release as many people in custody as possible;
  • Implement a moratorium on new admissions into jails and prisons;
  • Produce and implement evidence-based, humane and rights-affirming measures to protect the health and wellbeing of the individuals who will stay behind bars;
  • Immediately expand testing of incarcerated people inside all Connecticut jails and prisons.

In addition, we agree with, and demand that Connecticut immediately follow, the recommendations issued by a national group of community supervision and corrections officials to maintain health and safety of communities in the face of COVID-19:

  • Immediately limiting office visits for people on parole and probation;
  • Suspending or severely limiting technical violations for the duration of the pandemic;
  • Reducing intake onto probation and parole;
  • Reducing the terms of probation and parole;
  • Training staff to provide clear, accurate and understandable information to parole and probation clients

 

These measures must be taken immediately to save lives. Given the Connecticut Department of Corrections’ poor track record when it comes to preventing the spread of dangerous diseases and concerns over staffing shortages of medical professionals, we find it imperative that the state immediately release the people as part of a coherent, transparent plan to address the COVID-19 crisis in jails and prisons, and provide support to people once they leave incarceration. We demand public health responses to address this public health emergency-- and getting vulnerable individuals out of jails and prisons is a necessary step to prevent the spread and impact of COVID-19. Releasing people is only humane and smart progressive policy in this moment and going forward.” 

 

Signed by Organizational Members of the Health & Just CT Coalition: 

 

Collaborative Center for Justice

Community Capacity Builders

Connecticut Legal Rights Project

Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance

Families for Sensible Drug Policy

Feed The Need, They’re People Too

Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice 

Kitty Tyrol Consulting

One Standard of Justice

Second Chance Educational Alliance

Unlock the Vote

Women Against Mass Incarceration

 



About the Healthy & Just CT Coalition:

The Healthy & Just CT Coalition, a coalition convened by the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice, seeks to: strengthen the field of criminal justice reform by facilitating intersectional collaborations; identify and discuss resources for collective action on criminal justice reform; and coordinate work that increases the role and leadership of people directly impacted. 

 

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