IPNO‘s Monday Memo:
COVID-19 Highlights Racial Inequality
As the COVID-19 pandemic wears on and the deaths mount in states across the country, it has become clear that the coronavirus is killing African-Americans more than any other group.
In Alabama, African-Americans account for 44 percent of the deaths but only 26 percent of the population. In Chicago, 69 percent of people who have died from the virus are black, even though they make up 32 percent of the city’s population. In Milwaukee County, home to Wisconsin’s largest city, they account for about 70 percent of the dead but just 26 percent of the population. Here in Louisiana, African-Americans account for 70 percent of the deaths but make up just 32 percent of the population. The virus’s devastating effect on the Black community has prompted the Governor of Louisiana to form a Health Equity Task Force, which is charged with researching and developing strategies for addressing health disparities among Louisiana communities.
This stark racial disparity is truly alarming but not surprising. It reflects our country’s deep racial inequality and oppression. Our country was built on exploitation of racial difference and those systems still very much control outcomes. We see the results of systemic racism in every facet of our lives and society: Black women are four times more like to die from childbirth then white women, Black men are incarcerated at five times the rate of white men; 2/3 of Black and Brown children live in poverty; and more. It is not by accident that all of our clients but one were young Black men when they were falsely accused and wrongly imprisoned. And now prisons and jails have become epicenters of COVID-19, where social distancing is impossible and living conditions are far from sanitary. Innocent men fighting to clear their names have died from COVID-19 awaiting for their day in court and more will die unless we urge our leaders to do more for all citizens, free and incarcerated.
As the coronavirus ravages prisons, we are taking action to support both our freed and still imprisoned clients, and we ask you to do the same. Recently, under the Governor’s direction, Louisiana DOC created a review panel to furlough state prisoners in order to control the spread of the virus in state prisons; however, the review panel’s overly severe policies would impact about 100 prisoners. Louisiana has 34,000 state prisoners. Please call the Governor and ask him to do more. Other governors are doing more and we know Louisiana can, too.