July 2020 Newsletter
In this issue of the IAHR newsletter, you will find a save the date announcement for the 2nd Annual “Human Rights at the Prison Door: Reimagining Criminal Justice” event, our upcoming interviews with Malcolm Young and Tyrone Walker, links to the recordings of the July interviews with Nicole Porter and Richard Van Wickler, the link to Chuck’s blog, and an important letter on Covid-19 in prison from Marqui Clardy.
Save the Date for the 2nd Annual "Human Rights at the Prison Door Reimagining Criminal Justice"
"Reimagining Criminal Justice in the United States." Upcoming Sessions
Check out Chuck's Blog
Letter from Prison: Marqui Clardy's Letter on Covid-19 in Lawrenceville Prison in Virginia
Click here to register for the 2nd Annual “Human Rights at the Prison Door.”
Register for the Malcolm Young interview by clicking here.
Register for the Tyrone Walker interview by clicking here.
Click here to view the first two interviews: Nicole Porter and Richard Van Wickler
IAHR Executive Director, Rabbi Chuck Feinberg has been writing a blog for the last month. He usually makes two or three entries each week. You can check out his blog by clicking here.
Letter from Prison
July 15, 2020
As I'm writing this, it's 12:45 p.m. and breakfast is just now arriving to my housing unit. As of late, meals are always served late. Lunch won't arrive until around 5:00. Dinner is usually
served just before we lock down at 6:00; sometimes even later than that. This has been our "normal" meal schedule ever since COVID-19 entered the institution and began wreaking havoc. From the day the first cases were confirmed, almost nothing has been running according to standard operating procedure.
The reason we are just now receiving breakfast at 12:45 in the afternoon is primarily because of how heavily this virus has impacted the staff, several of whom have tested positive for it. Not only have they been sent home so that they can place themselves on quarantine; other staff members they've come in contact with and potentially spread the virus to have been sent home as well. As I've stated in previous essays, this institution was already understaffed. Now there's barely enough available to conduct day-to-day operations. Serving meals late is just the tip of the iceberg. Outside recreation has been halted because there aren't enough officers to supervise the rec yard. Some days, we aren't even allowed out of our cells for pod recreation due to a lack of officers inside the buildings. One particular night shift has come to be known as the "lockdown shift" because they're so severely short, the entire institution is always on lock when they're on. Sadly, this staffing issue will likely get worse as the virus continues to spread.
To no one's surprise, offenders here have also began testing positive. With so many infected staff - and the lack of adequate safety measures on behalf of the institution and DOC [we've yet to be issued bleach or ammonia to kill the virus on surfaces, nor have we been issued any new facemasks since April] - this was inevitable. The virus is spreading at such a fast rate that a lot of the officers who are still working are hesitant to make security rounds in the housing units for fear that they might also become infected. There's no separate quarantine area to send infected offenders, so unless they display severe symptoms, they're left in their housing unit. Of the 18 housing units at this prison, all but two contain infected offenders. Thankfully, the unit in which I'm housed is one that has no known cases, but I feel it's only a matter of time before someone in here tests positive. After all, when the officers do make security rounds, they must pass between each housing unit in the building, potentially spreading the virus from unit to unit. Ideally, the administration would contain this by assigning each officer to one housing unit and restricting them from entering the others. But again, they're too understaffed to be able to take such a safety measure.