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Black America and COVID-19

Documenting the impact of COVID-19 on Black America.

MASS CRIMINALIZATION

       Conditions in jails and prisons are inhumane. Incarcerated persons do not receive adequate food, clean water, health care, and mental health services. I know this because of the countless phone calls, letters, and conversations I have had with my mother during and beyond her incarceration. Therefore, COVID 19 in prisons and jails is a death sentence for every person incarcerated during this pandemic. Their deaths affect every child, sibling, aunt, cousin, neighbor, friend, mentor, faith leader, etc. Mass decarceration during this pandemic is essential business and needs to happen now. Black lives are human lives, no matter which sides of the bars they are on.

       Mass criminalization is a weapon of white supremacy used to oppress and marginalize the Black community. The defunding of housing, education, social services, and other community resources to fund prison construction, over-policing, and racist policies result in what Michelle Alexander calls "The New Jim Crow." In her work, Alexander explains how presidents used segregationist language and disguised their dangerous language in political rhetoric in media outlets to instill a fear of Black persons into white America. The language included some form of war: "War on Crime" or "War on Drugs." News outlets from television to print stigmatized the images of Black men and Black women by instilling Black stereotypes as "crack whores," "crack babies," and "gangbangers." Crime was intentionally written into the fabric of Black life by white supremacy.  By labeling a person as an inmate or criminal enables systems and people to ignore the existence of persons who are incarcerated and deem them unworthy of fundamental human rights. Children of the "criminal," "addict," "alcoholic," "crack whore," "gangbanger," and "thug," understand how damaging it is to be rendered invisible and silenced because of a system that would devalue our humanity. I am one of those children. The incarceration of my parents during my childhood, and portions of my adulthood, has shaped my emotional and social formation because grieving their absence forced me to grow into an adult who holds stories of pain, longing, and grief.

Co-Curator: Ashley Lipscomb, The Institute for Anti-Racist Education

Keyword Search Terms:  criminalization, justice, justice system, incarceration, prison, jail, inmate, release, home confinement, social distance, bail, bail fund, parole, exonerate, clemency, free, freedom

Title Source Image

Clemency Works Panel (recording not available)
National Council for Incarcerated & Formerly Incarcerated Women & Girls
Covid-19 Response and Resources (with meeting information)
April 15, 2020
https://www.peoplenotprisons.org/covid-19-resources
https://www.nationalcouncil.us/covid19

resource collection

Massachusetts #FreeHer Car Protest Demands the Release of Incarcerated Women during COVID-19
Building Up People, Not Prisons
Apr 18, 2020
YouTube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=3&v=2xsrCtgO4O4&feature=emb_logo

Video
ABOLITIONIST PLATFORM TOWARD HEALTHY COMMUNITIES NOW AND BEYOND COVID-19
Critical Resistance
April 2020
http://criticalresistance.org/abolitionist-platform-toward-healthy-communities-now-and-onward/
politics, resources Platform 1
DECARCERATION DURING COVID-19: A MESSAGING TOOLKIT FOR CAMPAIGNS FOR MASS RELEASE
Human Impact Partners
April 2020
https://humanimpact.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/DecarcerationPublicHealthMessageGuide_FINAL_April2020.pdf 
resource Human Impact Partners
WORKS OF JUSTICE: TEMPERATURE CHECK, COVID-19 BEHIND BARS, VOL. ONE
Pen America
Caits Meissner
April 1, 2020
https://pen.org/temperature-check-1/
advocacy  undefined
Man With Coronavirus Dies While Jailed For Parole Violation On Rikers Island
Gothamist
Sydney Pereira
April 6, 2020
https://gothamist.com/news/man-coronavirus-dies-while-jailed-parole-violation-rikers-island
news A view of the sign to the entrance of Rikers Island. ERIK PENDZICH/SHUTTERSTOCK
THE PEN POD: INCARCERATION AMID COVID-19 WITH BETH SHELBURNE
Pen America
Beth Shelburne
April 14, 2020
https://pen.org/the-pen-pod-beth-shelburne/
interview, podcast, audio undefined
JUSTICE REFORM ADVOCATES LAUNCH #CLEMENCYWORKS CAMPAIGN URGING U.S. GOVERNORS TO FREE INCARCERATED PEOPLE AMID COVID-19 OUTBREAK
Color of Change
April 15, 2020
https://colorofchange.org/press_release/justice-reform-advocates-launch-clemencyworks-campaign-urging-u-s-governors-to-free-incarcerated-people-amid-covid-19-outbreak/

View the letter here
news #ClemencyWorks for COVID-19
New York Tried to Get Rid of Bail. Then the Backlash Came.
Politico
James Lartey
April 23, 2020
https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/04/23/bail-reform-coronavirus-new-york-backlash-148299
news Michael Appleton/The New York Times/Redux
#FreeOurMamas: Art Sale Benefits Bail Funds for Black Mothers
Hyperallergic
Valentina Di Liscia
April 29, 2020
https://tinyurl.com/ybulx8us
blog Formerly incarcerated women tore up their criminal records to create handmade paper for the limited edition prints in the #FreeOurMamas art fundraiser (all images courtesy of The People’s Paper Co-op)
Inside the Jail With One of the Country’s Largest Coronavirus Outbreaks
ProPublica
Shannon Heffernan
April 30, 2020
https://www.propublica.org/article/cook-county-jail-covid-oral-histories
news Cook County Jail detainees post messages during the coronavirus pandemic on April 12 in Chicago. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
Resources to Challenge Policing and Incarceration as Part of a COVID-19 Response
Human Impact Partners
May 2020
https://humanimpact.org/hipprojects/health-not-punishment-covid/
resource collection Human Impact Partners
The Criminalization of COVID-19 is Happening in New Orleans. We Have Been Here Before.
The Body
S. Mandisa Moore-O’Neal

https://www.thebody.com/article/criminalization-of-covid-19-new-orleans
news Skip Bolen via GettyImages
Coronavirus can mean a death sentence to prisoners
The Boston Globe
Nancy Gertner
May 5, 2020
https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/05/05/opinion/coronavirus-can-mean-death-sentence-prisoners/
news undefined
The Case for Prison Abolition: Ruth Wilson Gilmore on COVID-19, Racial Capitalism & Decarceration
Democracy Now!
Ruth Wilson Gilmore and Azzurra Crispino
May 5, 2020
https://www.democracynow.org/2020/5/5/ruth_wilson_gilmore_abolition_coronavirus
event, video, audio n/a
Support for Massachusetts Decarceration Bill H.4652
Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice
May 5, 2020
https://charleshamiltonhouston.org/news/2020/05/support-for-massachusetts-decarceration-bill-h-4652/

Watch the video here
View the bill here
event, webinar, video, letter Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice
COVID-19, Drug Policy, and Decarceration: Reflections and Looking Ahead
The Drug Policy Alliance
Rose Cahn, Taz Moore, David Menschel, Robert Suarez, Peter Wagner, and Kassandra Frederique
​May 7, 2020
https://www.drugpolicy.org/resource/covid-19-drug-policy-and-decarceration-reflections-and-looking-ahead

Watch the video here
View the original event page here
event, video COVID-19 and Drug Policy Discussion Series
#AnswerTheirCall
Reform Alliance
May 11, 2020
https://reformalliance.com/

Watch the video here
video Reform Alliance
Let Our People Go: A letter from inside Marion Correctional Institution is the voice of those locked in cages and discarded during this pandemic.
New York Times
Michelle Alexander
May 13, 2020
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/13/opinion/coronavirus-prison-outbreak.html
opinion The son of an inmate at a protest over conditions at the Marion Correctional Institution in Marion, Ohio, on May 2.Credit...Megan Jelinger/Agence France-Presse, via Megan Jelinger
Hunger Strike at a Mass. Prison
jeantrounstine.com
Jean Trounstine
May 13, 2020
http://jeantrounstine.com/?p=4147
blog image courtesy of Change.org
Pregnant And Scared, She Became The First Woman Federal Prisoner To Die Of COVID-19
BuzzFeed News
Salvador Hernandez
May 14, 2020
https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/salvadorhernandez/coronavirus-kills-pregnant-federal-inmate
news Andrea Circle Bear Courtesy of Rhonda LaBeau
The impact of COVID-19 on prisons
The Brookings Institute
Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., Rashawn Ray, Marcus Bullock, Annelies Goger, Marc Schindler, and S. Todd Yeary
May 15, 2020
https://www.brookings.edu/events/the-impact-of-covid-19-on-prisons/

Watch the video here
event, webinar, video, audio Brookings Institute
Reconsidering Reentry: Exploring Decarceration in its Fullness Amid COVID-19
The Drug Policy Alliance
Stanley Andrisse, Susan Burton, Jenny Collier, Luis S. Garcia, Dr. Shamsher Samra, Queen Adesuyi, and Grant Smith
May 20, 2020
https://www.drugpolicy.org/resource/reconsidering-reentry-exploring-decarceration-its-fullness-amid-covid-19

Watch the video here
View the original event page here
event, video COVID-19 and Drug Policy Discussion Series
Inside a Pennsylvania Prison’s Hunger Strike: Inmates asked for COVID-19 protection. They were met with riot gear
Rolling Stone
Joseph Darius Jaafari, Pa Post, Vicky Taylor, Franklin County Free Press
May 28, 2020
https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-features/franklin-county-jail-hunger-strike-inside-story-1005846/
news Illustration by Isabel Seliger
Is COVID-19 Falling Harder on Black Prisoners? Officials Won’t Tell Us.
The Marshall Project
Maurice Chammah and Tom Meagher
May 28, 2020
https://www.themarshallproject.org/2020/05/28/is-covid-19-falling-harder-on-black-prisoners-officials-won-t-tell-us
news The Marshall Project
Improving Substance Use Disorder Treatment During and After the COVID-19 Pandemic
The Drug Policy Alliance
Dr. Anjali Taneja, MD, MPH; Dr. Kima Taylor, MD, MPH; Dr. Lisa Puglisi, MD; Dr. Richard Rawson, PhD; and Dr. Roopa Sethi
June 11, 2020
https://www.drugpolicy.org/resource/improving-substance-use-disorder-treatment-during-and-after-covid-19-pandemic

Watch the video here
View the original event page here
event, video COVID-19 and Drug Policy Discussion Series

Decarceration and Community: COVID-19 and Beyond (Part I)
The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice
Gina Clayton-Johnson, Essie Justice Group Soffiyah Elijah, Andrea James, Zach Norris, and Dehlia Umunna
June 11, 2020
https://tinyurl.com/y6wfr268

https://www.radcliffe.harvard.edu/video/decarceration-and-community-covid-19-and-beyond-part-i

event, panel discussion Virtual Radcliffe
George Floyd
Virginia Department of Corrections
Harold Clarke
June 11, 2020
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y10LY-anDhA&feature=youtu.be
video VA DOC
Coronavirus Cases Rise Sharply in Prisons Even as They Plateau Nationwide: Prison officials have been reluctant to do widespread virus testing even as infection rates are escalating.
New York Times
Timothy Williams, Libby Seline and Rebecca Griesbach
June 16, 2020
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/16/us/coronavirus-inmates-prisons-jails.html?referringSource=articleShare
news Protesters held a rally to bring awareness about the spread of the coronavirus inside the Marion Correctional Institution in Marion, Ohio, in May.Credit...Megan Jelinger/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
The Prison Was Built to Hold 1,500 Inmates. It Had Over 2,000 Coronavirus Cases.
ProPublica
Dara Lind
June 18, 2020
https://www.propublica.org/article/the-prison-was-built-to-hold-1500-inmates-it-had-over-2000-coronavirus-cases
news Keith Negley for ProPublica
Coronavirus VIII: Prisons & Jails: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)
Last Week Tonight, HBO
John Oliver
June 21, 2020
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MuxnH0VAkAM
video, news undefined

Decarceration and Community: COVID-19 and Beyond (Part II)
The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice
Patricia Caruso, Harold Clarke, Homer Venters, and Mary T. Bassett
June 23, 2020
https://www.radcliffe.harvard.edu/event/2020-decarceration-and-community-part-2-virtual

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C45NwlKzfCw

 

event, panel discussion Virtual Radcliffe

Punishment by Pandemic
The New Yorker
Rachel Aviv, June 15, 2020
https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/06/22/punishment-by-pandemic

article undefined
Coronavirus is a nightmare for inmates already. For mentally ill defendants, it's even worse
Mic
Christie Thompson
June 19, 2020
https://www.mic.com/p/coronavirus-is-a-nightmare-for-inmates-already-for-mentally-ill-defendants-its-even-worse-22984116
news Shutterstock
Decarcerate & End Prison Brutality Now
Massachusetts State House
June 25, 2020
https://www.thebostoncalendar.com/events/decarcerate-end-prison-brutality-now

View the original event page here
event undefined
Behind Bars, but Still Posting on TikTok: The lives of incarcerated people are usually hidden from society. On prison TikTok, they’re going viral.
Wired
Louise Matsakis
July 1, 2020
https://www.wired.com/story/prison-tiktok-behind-bars-still-posting/
news Inmates have used TikTok for everything from sharing memes to speaking out about prison conditions.PHOTOGRAPH: JUSTIN COOK/REDUX
COVID Cuts A Lethal Path Through San Quentin’s Death Row
Kaiser Health News
Dan Morain
July 8, 2020
https://khn.org/news/covid-cuts-a-lethal-path-through-san-quentins-death-row/
news In recent days, five death row inmates have died after contracting COVID-19 at San Quentin State Prison, north of San Francisco. (Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images) This story also ran on Daily Beast. This story can be republished for free (details). The old men live in cramped spaces and b
LETTER: ORGANIZATIONS DEMAND PRISON E-BOOK READERS DROP ACCESS FEES DURING COVID-19
Pen America
https://pen.org/letter-ereader-ceos/
letter Pen America

“They Don’t Care About Our Health”: Hunger Striker at Otay Mesa ICE Jail Speaks Out as COVID Spreads
Democracy Now!
July  7, 2020
https://www.democracynow.org/2020/7/7/otay_mesa_covid_outbreak

Video

Jailing practices appear to fuel coronavirus spread, study says
The Harvard Gazette
Juan Siliezar
August 3, 2020
https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2020/08/harvard-study-links-jailing-practices-to-covid-19-spread/

news
https://www.latimes.com/about/pressreleases/story/2021-06-11/robert-greene-wins-pulitzer-prize-for-editorial-writing