IPNO’s Monday Memo:

Take action against DOC plan to house prisoners with coronavirus at Angola and Allen Prisons

The coronavirus has arrived at Louisiana prisons, threatening the state’s over 30,000 incarcerated individuals. State officials announced Thursday that a state prisoner and seven prison staffers have tested positive for the virus. Three youths in the custody of the state Office of Juvenile Justice tested positive for coronavirus on Friday. And Oakdale Federal Prison has exploded with coronavirus cases in recent days, resulting in the death of Patrick Jones, a 49 year-old prisoner, the hospitalization of a guard, and positive COVID-19 test results for another 30 prisoners and staff. Jones was the first reported incarcerated individual in Louisiana to die from the coronavirus.
Former IPNO client Robert Jones (no relation to Patrick Jones) now a co-founder of Free-Dem Foundations, a non-profit mentorship organization, and a client advocate at Orleans Public Defenders, has said that prisoners and their families have been calling him, asking what officials are doing to keep them from getting sick. Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate in the world and is experiencing the fastest growth of new cases in the world.
“They are definitely afraid, they don’t know what to expect,” Jones said, “They’ve seen other states and cities letting folks out so they keep asking if that’s going to happen here.”
IPNO has joined criminal justice advocates in calling for the Governor and the Department of Corrections (“DOC”) to develop and enact a plan to manage the spread of cases in prisons, including the immediate release of some pretrial detained and imprisoned individuals.
Instead, the DOC has announced plans to house incarcerated people from all over the state who test positive for the coronavirus, including those who have not been convicted of crimes, at Angola and Allen prisons. This plan is distressing for a number of reasons. For one, the health care system at Angola was declared unconstitutional just last month. Further, the state’s prisoners serving life at Angola are the oldest prisoners, and Angola is located at least 30 miles away from the nearest hospital. At Angola, state officials plan to house its sick prisoners in Camp J, a notoriously unsafe and inhumane facility which officials closed in 2018 for infrastructure problems. By placing sick prisoners at Camp J, they are essentially sentencing prisoners to death.
Robert Jones described how a COVID-19 outbreak in the prisons will turn them into a “caged grave site.”
“Guys are not going to get the proper medical treatments or concerns as citizens do. Most guys who have been incarcerated for decades are relying on their own self-medicated remedies to keep themselves safe.”
Take action by calling and emailing your legislators and the Governor, and demanding that they provide for the health and safety of Louisiana’s incarcerated individuals, and immediately release prisoners with already commuted or recommended commuted sentences.
If you would like to directly help an incarcerated or freed client, you can donate to IPNO’s COVID-19 fundraiser, which supports our incarcerated and freed clients here.
You can further support IPNO’s freed clients by donating to their individual fundraising pages. Many of them have already lost their jobs and the stimulus package will provide them with minimal to no assistance as they face this pandemic in one of the seriously impacted states. If you can help, give here.
Be safe, healthy and vigilant. Stay home. Do your part to help contain coronavirus and save lives.