A prisoner advocacy group in April began urging residents to call Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb and the state Department of Corrections (DOC) Commissioner Robert Carter to demand the release of nonviolent prisoners, the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions amid the COVID-19 health threat, one of many such groups springing up around the country.
Advocates in the group, IDOCWatch, include Emily Bernard, a healthcare administrator, and her daughter Jasmine Lovelace, a law student at Indiana University. Bernard said the public is under the incorrect perception that medical treatment in prison is free, but the reality is that prisoners must make a payment to the healthcare provider. IDOCWatch is advocating for health care on request without a charged co-pay for the elderly, the vulnerable and all immuno-compromised prisoners
IDOCWatch co-founder Nick Greven noted that prisoners in other states are already being released due to the virus. California, New York and Ohio are states that have released prisoners to reduce the risk of infection and spreading.
The organization’s Facebook page states that Indiana is the most overcrowded prison system in the nation and a “potential disaster zone for widespread outbreak.”
On April, Indystar.com reported that “five prisoners who tested positive are at the Indiana Women’s Prison in Indianapolis and the Plainfield Correctional Facility in Hendricks County.”
DOC spokeswoman Margaux Auxier told The Journal Gazette that the DOC “has limited authority to release offenders sooner than their sentencing order.” However, the department will prioritize any sentencing modifications the courts may order at this time.
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