Corrections Officers And Formerly Incarcerated People Protest Unsafe COVID-19 Conditions
Corrections officers joined prison abolitionists in a caravan rally protesting the lack of promised testing, PPE, and release of prisoners at four Maryland prisons.
This is a rush transcript and may contain errors. It will be updated.
Speaker 1: There is a disruption in our system. On behalf of incarcerated men and women. We need the governor to listen. It is his responsibility to straighten it out! It’s his responsibility to make sure that people who work in these places are safe. It’s has responsibility to make sure that the people who are housed here, the residents, are safe. We’re going to keep on disrupting the system, until he do something.
Speaker 2: Welcome to The Real News. I’m Eddie Conway, coming to you from Baltimore with this episode of Rattling The Bars. An unlikely union of formerly imprisoned, people joined with Assmi, who represents the correctional officers union for a caravan rally, circling four prisons in the Jessop area, including the only women’s prison in the state of Maryland. The organizers protest unsafe conditions inside the prisons, including no testing for COVID-19, not yet, no protective equipment like gloves and masks, few medical personnel, and few inmates released from the governor’s order of 2000 to be released in Maryland amidst COVID-19 outbreak.
Speaker 1: I want to start off by extending a special thanks to all of the formerly incarcerated men and women that are here. Please give yourselves a hand. All the formerly incarcerated people that are here. I will be remiss if I didn’t say thank you, Denise Gilmore and Joe Cox because when I extended the offer to say, “Hey, let’s do something that they’ve never done in the history of Maryland.” Now, formally incarcerated people and correctional officers stand side by side.
Speaker 3: It’s a great stance because they know the conditions on the outside. We, as employees are given from the employee aspect, but the people who are former incarcerated, they know the conditions of living in these 24/7. So they can help tie our message together. Pretty much.
Speaker 1: That’s not something you get every day. So that sends a strong message go any, and everybody that number one, whether you were incarcerated or not, we are all human beings. And we stand here today to say, “Guess what? All of those people been in there for 30 years, they human. All of those people who have been in there fighting and struggling, trying to maintain their dignity and humanity. They are human.”
Speaker 2: Prisoner’s right advocate and founder of “Out For Justice”. Nicole Henson and managing director of Maryland Justice Project, Edda Marios, along with family members of incarcerated loved ones, protested it outside the front gates of the Maryland Correctional Institute for Women. Calling for the immediate release of Maryland’s longest serving incarcerated women, Arana Pri, as well as other women behind bars.
Speaker 4: Free her!
Speaker 6: Free her!
Speaker 7: Free Aubrey!
Speaker 9: Free Arana!
Speaker 8: Free them all!
Speaker 10: Free them all!
Speaker 11: Everybody deserves to live!
Speaker 12: Our women should not be sitting behind those bars, thrown in an infirmary that has no medical equipment to protect them.
Speaker 10: [inaudible 00:03:48] Free all of them!
Speaker 12: Our women deserve access to ammune-boosting food. Our women deserve better.
Speaker 13: She got sick. She got cold within here and they rushed out and brought her right back. We already know how she doing.
Speaker 12: It is no way that the department of corrections is adequately reporting the women has been tested because they’re not tested in there.
Speaker 2: Under pressure from activists and advocates. Maryland’s governor signed an executive order for the release of 2000 prisoners, April 19th. These 2000 prisoners were to be released from jails, prisons and detention centers. But prison abolitionists say the number of people who were actually released is around 70 to 80 prisoners. While people who have made parole remain in prison and detainees who are being held for misdemeanors, remains in detention centers without bail. Representatives from Assmi, who represents the correctional officers was told a month ago in a meeting with secretary of public safety, Robert Green, that every employee would get tested for COVID-19. Governor Larry Hogan announced on May 20th, that there would be universal testing in Maryland prisons. But Assmi reps along with prison advocates say that Hogan has not sent out in plan or implementation. As of May the 11th, there were reports of 200 cases among uniform officers, 57 among inmates at Jessup. There’s no way to tell the exact numbers without testing.
Speaker 14: Governor Hogan did reach out and give us some tests. But he only gave us a DJS and corrections. I have brothers and sisters over at MDH that need testing. They have a lot of patients over there who are positive. A lot of our staff is going in and out of there and risking their lives. So we need testing. We need continuous testing or all state 24/7 employees. It’s just ridiculous that we can’t get it.
Places have hotspots. We have facilities in places like PG County with severe hotspots, severe cases out there, 10-12,000 cases. We need testing for these people in these facilities. NVA doesn’t need to be opening next week. It doesn’t need to be going back to work. It’s very dangerous for these patients that work in these places. So we just need governor Hogan to rethink the reopening process and if he’s going to reopen, he needs to protect the employees a lot better than he has.
Speaker 1: Supposedly the Maryland department of health is supposed to be rolling out this protocol for our testing for all, but we haven’t seen it.
Speaker 2: Advocates of calling for people to be released on their own reconnaissance in lieu of cash bail, deliver citations rather than arrest people for minor offenses released those charged with misdemeanors release the most vulnerable prisoners along with providing personal protection equipment for people inside among other demands.
Speaker 1: It don’t make sense that somebody would have to sit there and die because of his lack of doing anything. He hasn’t done anything. Period. That gesture to release people where they are four months within a release date. That’s nothing. He can do more and I suspect that unfortunately, if he don’t do more, we’re going to see more deaths in our correctional facilities. It’s just a matter of time. The center for disease control, the CDC have already warned that this coming fall, it’s going to be even worse than what it is now. So we need to get in front of that. We don’t need to wait until September and October. When we start to see the bodies pile up.
Speaker 2: As a second outbreak booms, it will become more difficult to protect prisoners and the employees we’ll bring COVID-19 home to their communities.
Speaker 4: Women I have to be transported out the facility and order to be tested, you got to be damn near dead to get out of these walls to get proper medical equipment. Governor Hogan, your order is not working. Let our people go. Second chances. Free our women.
Speaker 2: The Real News will continue to bring you update on the conditions inside the Maryland prison system. For The Real News, I’m Eddie Conway.