We are all vulnerable…

March 26, 2020 

An open letter from – Quebec Carceral Lawyers
Covid-19 in Quebec prisons

There is no way to practice social distancing in prison, except for solitary confinement, which is a breach of human rights. This open letter from Quebec Carceral lawyers calls for the immediate release of:

A person serving a sentence for a non-violent offence;
A person serving an intermittent sentence;
A person serving a sentence of less than six (6) months;
A person whose release date is less than six (6) months away (statutory release, expiration of sentence, remission);
A person detained in a federal penitentiary who meets the criteria for accelerated parole review under the former version of section 125 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, in force before the legislative amendment of March 28, 2011;
A person over 70 years of age;
A person with a chronic, immunosuppressed disease or other serious medical condition;
A pregnant woman or a woman in the from the federal mother-child program.

Full text (in French):  https://www.droit-inc.com/article26481-COVID-19-a-t-on-oublie-les-personnes-incarcerees   (Thanks to Rachel Deutsch for the translation and the link.)  Related article: CBC News – Rachel Ward   Senator calls for inmate release to prevent potential prison COVID-19 ‘disaster’  https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/senator-calls-release-inmates-covid-19-1.5509086?fbclid=IwAR2hU4vItO3GBwUgMBFYw3-aunDsIV0eczniN3_xNt_Ds8xz4Sp9G5jBUCs    Related article:  Globe and Mail – Michelle Ward, Canadian Press   Increase in child abuse a big concern during COVID-19 pandemic  https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-increase-in-child-abuse-a-big-concern-during-covid-19-pandemic/?fbclid=IwAR3QIHlZxLKgI2NgYVhZSBEAZ-FbaAD8MZVbKzhmufjkEbaaR1J49PF7WNE


Washington Post (US) – Kimberly Kindy, Emma Brown and Dalton Bennett
‘Disaster waiting to happen’: Thousands of inmates released as jails and prisons face coronavirus threat

A number of individual states have begun sending home inmates from over-crowded facilities in the hope of keeping the Coronavirus out of the prisons.  So far, New Jersey is the first state to begin the practice but in other states the tension among the inmates seeing additional new inmates is concerning as well.  A group of Senators are also invoking Trump to react on the federal level to send home a variety of elderly, low risk, non-violent, inmates or those with a short time before parole or sentence expiry.  Other states are likewise engaged: Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, California, Oregon, and New York.  The crisis is creating panic among immigration detainees as well.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/disaster-waiting-to-happen-thousands-of-inmates-released-as-jails-face-coronavirus-threat/2020/03/24/761c2d84-6b8c-11ea-b313-df458622c2cc_story.html?utm_campaign=wp_evening_edition&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&wpisrc=nl_evening   Related article: The Appeal (US) – Kyle C. Barry   Some Supreme Courts Are Helping Shrink Jails to Stop Outbreaks. Others Are Lagging Behind.   https://theappeal.org/politicalreport/some-supreme-courts-are-helping-shrink-jails-coronavirus/


The Brennan Center (US) – Andrew Cohen
The Meaning of ‘Public Safety’ in a Time of Coronavirus: The criminal justice system must respond more quickly to the deadly threat, argues Brennan Center Fellow Andrew Cohen.

The Covid-19 virus is already inside many US prisons or jails and threatening whole populations of inmates.  While there have been slow downs in arresting and jail new people, those already serving sentences are exposed along with the entire cast of characters involved in the criminal legal system: inmates, those on remand, correctional officers, police officers, court officials, jurors, public health personnel, are all exposed as long as the system continues without restraint.  One of the questions lurking behind the potential transmission of the virus is what is meant by ‘public safety’ in the light of the deadly virus?  https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/analysis-opinion/meaning-public-safety-time-coronavirus  (Ed Note:  Andy Cohen has just recently been tested positive for the virus.)  Related article: CBC News – Nicole Mortillaro   ‘I’ve never been so stressed’: Health-care workers in COVID-19 battle face PTSD, mental health issues  Front-line workers have higher risk of symptoms of depression, anxiety, study says   https://www.cbc.ca/news/health/covid19-doctors-ptsd-1.5507548   Related article: Toronto Star Editorial (March 24, 2020)   In fighting the coronavirus, don’t undermine democratic values   https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2020/03/24/in-fighting-the-coronavirus-dont-undermine-democratic-values.html   Related article: The Marshall Project – Jerry Metcalf    No, Your Coronavirus Quarantine Is Not Just Like Being in Prison“I’d give anything to trade places with you right now.”  https://www.themarshallproject.org/2020/03/25/no-your-coronavirus-quarantine-is-not-just-like-being-in-prison


The New Yorker – Daniel Gross
“It Spreads Like Wildfire”: The Coronavirus Comes to New York’s Prisons

This is a helpful view of the Coronavirus in an 8×10 cell with no place to go and little medical services.  The article moves through a variety of types of prisons and offers an explanation about how the inmates are coping from a personal point of view.  “On Friday, I summarized my reporting for Gregg Gonsalves, the epidemiologist, and asked him whether he considered the prison system’s preparations sufficient. “You have a gaping wound and you’re giving a Band-Aid,” he replied.”   https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/it-spreads-like-wildfire-covid-19-comes-to-new-yorks-prisons?utm_source=onsite-share&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=onsite-share&utm_brand=the-new-yorker  Delaware Middletown Transcript  – ACLU, Coalition for Smart Justice urge Carney to protect prison population from COVID-19  https://www.middletowntranscript.com/news/20200324/aclu-coalition-for-smart-justice-urge-carney-to-protect-prison-population-from-covid-19

Amnesty International
Amnesty International highlights human rights priorities in the Americas for state responses to COVID-19

Ai recognizes the rapid response danger of compromising human rights in the haste to get preventative measures in place and has four do’s and four don’ts in this rush to suspend civil and constitutional rights.  The AI press release refers to its full report and says:  “The paper, which sets out four things governments should do and four things they should not, affirms that states must not discriminate; leave high-risk groups behind; use repression or excessive force in enforcement of public health measures; or censor or limit access to evidence-based information or prevention. States must also guarantee workers’ rights and social security; guarantee access to adequate water, sanitation and health care for all; ensure a gender-focused response to the pandemic; AND protect people’s right to privacy.”   https://www.amnestyusa.org/press-releases/americas-amnesty-international-highlights-human-rights-priorities-for-state-responses-to-covid-19/   Full AI Report:  AMERICAS AT A CROSSROADS IN RESPONSE TO COVID-19   https://www.amnestyusa.org/reports/americas-at-a-crossroads-in-response-to-covid-19/


Shalem Mental Health Facebook Page

The pressures from being at home for an extended period and interrupting our normal lives can be severe.  We are getting more and more advice about how to be alone without creating loneliness.  One of the better sites for reflections on this theme is the Facebook page of the Shalem Mental Health Network   https://www.facebook.com/ShalemMentalHealth/ .  The Network is a private, faith based mental health practice and advocate, still operating as one of Ontario’s essential services.  Web page is:  https://shalemnetwork.org/  Go to the blog section.