We are a loving and powerful community of women with incarcerated loved ones, including cisgender women, transgender women, formerly incarcerated women, gender nonconforming people, elders, and young people. Since COVID-19 hit, our loved ones inside are crowded together in facilities where they have no access to sanitation supplies or masks, cannot get tested even if they have COVID-19 symptoms, and have no access to proper medical care. Contrary to what prisons, jails, and detention centers are reporting, our loved ones are telling us conditions inside are dire. We fear for our incarcerated loved ones’ health and well-being — their lives are on the line.
As people with loved ones behind bars, we can get to the truth about what’s really happening inside prisons. Essie Justice Group, in partnership with Color of Change, created the Lives on the Line survey for people with incarcerated loved ones. Knowing that carceral spaces are designed to obscure their own violence, the survey sought out concrete data that could illustrate what was happening behind bars and buoy the efforts of advocates across the country
fighting to free incarcerated people amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The data we collected makes clear that what is happening with COVID-19 behind bars is a humanitarian and public health disaster.
Read and share our report Lives on the Line: Women with Incarcerated Loved Ones and the Impact of COVID-19 Behind Bars. Together, we can hold public officials accountable for putting our loved ones lives at risk and push for life-saving actions.
Our loved ones are currently held in unsafe conditions, where the spread of COVID-19 is dangerous and deadly. The safest and most humane way to prevent devastation is to close prisons, jails, and detention centers. We seek the immediate release of all incarcerated people starting with those who are most at risk to the impacts of COVID-19, those who become ill, and those who have caregiver responsibilities.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and “shelter in place” orders, our loved ones are returning to communities where housing, employment, medical care, groceries, and other necessities are increasingly scarce and difficult to obtain. As women with incarcerated loved ones, we are the de facto reentry system in the country and during these financially unstable times, we are struggling to stay afloat. As our loved ones are released to our homes and communities, we demand increased access to essential services and financial resources that support our ability to properly welcome our loved ones home and ensure their safe and healthy return.
Our loved ones are dying inside because of COVID-19. They do not have access to cleaning supplies or medical care, are put into solitary confinement, on lockdown, or are housed in dormitory-style rooms with dozens of people, instead of implementing social distancing. We demand that our loved ones are given ample free access to quality medical care and sanitation supplies that meet CDC standards.
Our connection to our loved ones is being severed under COVID-19. In conditions where the amount of communication with our loved ones is already extremely limited, our visits have been canceled and the majority of our phone calls remain time-restricted. We don’t have up-to-date or consistent information about the health of our loved ones or the spread of COVID-19 inside. We demand unlimited free access to communication with our loved ones and regular updates on their health and the wellbeing of those they are incarcerated with.
Our loved ones no longer have access to participate in educational, mental health, and other programs that both facilitate wellbeing and earn our loved ones credits toward release. Furthermore, parole hearings have been delayed and canceled, court hearings are happening without transparency or accountability to the public, and judges across the nation are passing emergency measures that extend the amount of time a person is incarcerated before going to trial. As a result, our loved ones will be incarcerated longer. We demand that all measures be taken to ensure that COVID-19 does not increase the time that any person spends incarcerated.