31 March 2020: Day 6 of the #FreeThemAll4PublicHealth Week of Action
Prisons are one of the most dangerous places to be during the Covid-19 pandemic. Social distancing is impossible and many people in prisons already are immunocompromised after years of health care neglect.
So far, three people in prison have died from Covid-19 across the UK and 65 people have tested positive, although the number of cases is surely much higher. The only way to stop this becoming a crisis of death will be for total release – there is no other way to prevent the spread .
Steps are being taken to make this happen. 200 people will be released in Northern Ireland and people who are pregnant will be released soon across the UK. But this is not enough as tens of thousands of others remain imprisoned with no way to defend themselves from the virus.
A staggered release has begun, and we are here to demand that Lucy Frazer QC MP, Minister of State for Prisons & Probation, makes sure it is not a partial release which would enforce the idea that some peoples’ lives matter more than others, amplifying narratives which pit marginalised people against other marginalised people.
Lucy Frazer must act now to save tens of thousands of lives of those inside prisons. Every single one of these people matter and deserve to be treated with full humanity. Please join us in putting pressure on the minister to do the right thing.
Step 1: Call
Lucy Frazer Parliamentary – 020 7219 5082
“I am calling to demand the immediate release of all those in prison and detention centres as the only possible way to mitigate the potentially deadly impacts of COVID-19 public health crisis. Whilst the release of thirty five pregnant people is a start, it is not sufficient to address this crisis, and plans must be made to release the 85 000 other people incarcerated in the UK. People inside prisons are facing dire and inhumane conditions – no adequate sanitation and hygiene facilities, removal of visitation rights, and in now full lock-downs. Removing peoples’ only support systems during a time of global crisis and not providing them with any way to protect themselves from a pandemic is state violence, and will become state-sanctioned murder unless immediate action is taken. Release them all now!”
Step 2: Tweet
Lucy Frazer: @lucyfrazermp
Hi @lucyfrazermp – you said the @MojGovUK “is doing everything it can to combat the COVID-19 outbreak”, but the cases of #covid19 in prisons doubled over the wknd. Health & safety standards clearly aren’t being met & you must act now to avoid mass death #FreeThemAll4PublicHealth
Hey @lucyfrazermp – you said proper hand washing would be manageable in prisons, yet reports from HMP Wandsworth state no hot water for a week in the D wing. Those inside deserve dignity & the chance to protect themselves #FreeThemAll4PublicHealth
@lucyfrazermp – how’s social-distancing going? Why won’t you allow those inside the prisons you manage to do the same? It’s impossible for #covid19 NOT to spread amongst cramped conditions #FreeThemAll4PublicHealth
Hi @lucyfrazermp – have you heard that those inside with flu-like symptoms are being placed with those with confirmed cases? This is a recipe for more death. Prisons already destroy the health of those inside, & this only increases with #covid19 #FreeThemAll4PublicHealth
Step 3: Email
I am writing to express my deep concern about the health and safety of people inside prisons across the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic. Numerous public health journals, grassroots groups, and activists have outlined why prisons are the worst possible places to prevent the spread of disease. Incarcerated people cannot self-isolate and prison regulations make hygiene and health practices next to impossible. The only reasonable comprehensive COVID-19 prison mitigation strategy is the immediate release of all people in prison and detention. ETC
Prisons are by their very nature unsafe and unhealthy spaces in which access to health care is severely limited. Incarcerated people face systematic medical neglect,abuse and incredible isolation everyday. This maltreatment will only increase during the COVID-19 pandemic. UK prisons have alarmingly ideal conditions for the rapid spread of disease. As the Health Affairs journal states, “Prisons push people into the paths of epidemics”.
Simply put, prisons cannot cope with a COVID-19 outbreak. There are approximately 85,000 people in prisons across the UK. Within this there is a significant population of ageing people in prison for which the virus will likely be life threatening. Any death that results from COVID-19 spreading through the prison population is state sanctioned murder. People in prison are not disposable and the ‘punishment for their crimes’ cannot be death.
We are in the midst of a public health crisis, people in prison are also members of the general public and are therefore included in this public health crisis and must not be forgotten. The only action to be taken that will adequately stop what will become a crisis of mass-death, is the immediate release of all people incarcerated and in detention across the UK.
I stand with those on the inside in solidarity and am urging you to act now to prevent unnecessary suffering and death. Their blood will be on your hands. I demand first and foremost the release of all people in prison and detention.
- We demand that all people currently on ROTL are not brought back into prison.
- If release of all people in prison is staggered, we demand that the first to be released be those most vulnerable to COVID-19, such as the elderly, those who are pregnant, substance users and those who have pre-existing health conditions/compromised immune systems.
Arrests and Court Rulings
- We demand an end to incarceration as a repercussion for crimes.
- We demand that all active trials be stopped.
- We demand that all courts be closed.
- We demand that probation appointments be halted and we demand an end to license breach recalls.
- We demand that any people in prison be taken to hospital immediately upon exhibiting symptoms.
- We demand that free soap, masks, and necessarily hygienic facilities be available to all incarcerated people.
- We demand that all prison officers and medical staff be temperature checked before entering prison facilities, and both are required to wear gloves and face masks when interacting with people who are imprisoned.
- We demand free COVID-19 testing for anyone in prison that requests it.
- We demand that people in prison be given access to healthy and nutritious food.
- We demand that visitation remains available as long as prison officers and prison staff are still entering the establishment.
- We demand that phone and video communication services are provided without cost to all people in prison.
- We demand that hygiene kits be available in visitation areas.