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Prison Covid News 1-4, 2020

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COVID 19 IInformation
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by Anat Rubin, Tim Golden, Richard A.
Webster, ProPublica
y the time he persuaded the guards
to let him call his family, Michael
Williams could feel his life slipping
away. His body ached, and he was struggling to breathe. For three days, he had
been locked behind the heavy metal door of
a cramped prison cell, terrified and alone.
“They weren’t treating him,” his son,
Kevin Cooks, recalled. “He kept telling
me, ‘Son, I’m going to die in here.’” Williams, a 70-year-old diabetic, was serving a
life sentence for a 1974 convenience store
murder he had always maintained he did
not commit. It was the first time his son had
ever heard him cry.
Williams’ family and his lawyer called
over and over to the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, pleading with guards
and nurses to have him moved to a hospital.
When they finally reached one of the senior


Inside COVID Raged ...............1
On Slavery & Democracy.........3
Corona Virus Updates..............4
The Right to Due Process ........7
Freed from Prison ....................8
Letter From Supreme Court .....8
WSP Hunger Strike Demands .8
Book Review ............................9

guard officers, family members said, he
told them Williams didn’t have the virus.
On May 7, a nurse assured one of Williams’ sisters that he was improving. The
next day, he was rushed to a regional hospital in critical condition. The day after that, a
doctor called to say Williams had gone into
cardiac arrest. If they wanted to say goodbye, he said, they should hurry.
While the novel coronavirus burned
through Angola, as the country’s largest
maximum-security prison is known, officials insisted they were testing all inmates
who showed symptoms, isolating those
who got sick and transferring more serious
cases to the hospital in Baton Rouge, about
60 miles to the south.
But from inside Angola’s walls, inmates
painted a very different picture — one of
widespread illness, dysfunctional care and
sometimes inexplicable neglect. They said
at least four of the 12 prisoners who have
died in the pandemic, including Williams,
had been denied needed medical help for
days because their symptoms were not considered sufficiently serious.
Despite having test kits available, Angola also sharply limited its testing of
prisoners during the first 10 weeks of the
pandemic, screening at most a few hundred
of the roughly 5,500 held there. The testing
was so limited that a former medical director for the Louisiana Department of Public
Safety and Corrections said he believed officials there had sought to avoid confirming the existence of an outbreak they feared
they could not control.
“If you do that testing, how are you going to handle the results?” the former offi-

cial, Dr. Raman Singh, asked. “If you find it
is widespread, how do you handle that with
your guards? Never ask a question if you
aren’t going to like the answer.”
A spokesman for the corrections department, Ken Pastorick, would not disclose
the number of inmates who have been tested at Angola. Nor would he comment on
allegations that the authorities had deliberately withheld tests from many prisoners
who showed symptoms of the virus.
Yet, in the two months after Louisiana
prisons recorded their first cases of the
novel coronavirus in late March, the corrections department tested only about 3%
of the roughly 14,150 men incarcerated in
state prisons, official figures indicate. The
authorities have since conducted about 400
more tests.
Prisons and jails now account for most
of the biggest COVID-19 hot spots in the
country, with thousands of cases documented at penitentiaries in Texas, Ohio,
California and other states. But corrections
officials have reported striking differences
in the impact of the virus.
This article is based on telephone conversations, email messages and other communications with more than two dozen
Angola inmates, as well as interviews with
many lawyers and relatives who have been
in touch with them and a review of more
than 900 email reports sent by inmates to
a prisoner support group during the pandemic. It also draws on interviews with
current and former officials, and statements
and documents produced in two federal
lawsuits over medical treatment at Angola.
In many cases, prisoners said, inmates

who were obviously sick with the coronavirus were denied even cursory medical examinations, mostly because they did
not register sufficiently high fevers. Men
passed out and were told they were dehydrated. Others, who complained of bad
coughs, aches, fatigue and stomach pains
were treated with Tylenol, Pepto-Bismol
and Tums.
Inmate dormitories at Angola, like this
one photographed in 2011, have been
packed with rows of metal bunks set close
together. (The Times-Picayune)
“The surest way not to have a coronavirus crisis is not to test for it,” said Haller
Jackson, who was recently released from
Angola after serving a five-year sentence.
“We all joked when we saw the ambulance
coming, ‘Oh, somebody else is dehydrated.’”
Lawyers for a dozen inmates who filed
a class-action lawsuit in 2015 argued that
Angola’s medical care was so egregiously
poor, it violated the Eighth Amendment’s
prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. The federal judge hearing the case
in Baton Rouge, Shelly D. Dick, said in
February that she will find the state’s practices “unconstitutional in some respects,”
but her final ruling is still pending.
Nearly all of the doctors who work full
time at Angola ended up there after the
state medical board suspended their licenses for violations ranging from drug dealing
to sexual misconduct. The prison’s medical director, Dr. Randy Lavespere, served
a federal prison sentence for buying $8,000
worth of methamphetamine in a Home
Depot parking lot. He is now overseeing
health care for the entire DOC.
“Surgeries are delayed, diagnoses are
delayed, until it’s too late to do anything,”
Melvin Thornton, an inmate who led a petition drive seeking wider coronavirus testing, wrote in an email. “They can’t deal
with that, and then you add a pandemic.”
The medical treatment of Angola’s prisoners has been challenged in the federal
courts almost continuously since 1971. Deficient health care — along with rampant
violence, overcrowding and racial segregation — led to a federal consent decree in
1983 and supervision by a federal judge of
reforms across the state corrections system.
Angola was especially slow to comply;
it remained under federal oversight for the
next 16 years.
As the violence diminished, state officials drew attention to improvements like
the prison law library, educational pro2

grams and an elaborate system of privileges
and rewards for inmates who followed the
rules. But the health care problems proved
more intractable.
“Prisoners report horror story after horror story,” lawyers for the plaintiffs wrote
in their 2015 complaint. “A man denied
medical attention four times during a
stroke, leaving him blind and paralyzed; a
man denied access to a specialist for four
years while his throat cancer advanced; a
blind man denied even a cane for 16 years.”
A team of leading prison-health experts,
hired by the lawyers to evaluate Angola’s
health system, called it “one of the worst
we have ever reviewed.” For years, Louisiana prisons have consistently recorded
the country’s highest mortality rate. With
proper care, the experts concluded, many
of those inmates might have survived. “It
is our opinion that these preventable excess
deaths are a consequence of the systemic
inadequacies in the health program,” they
Early outbreaks erupted at two women’s
prisons in the state system. When the authorities tested about 500 inmates in those
facilities, they found infection rates of
87% in one and over 60% in the other,
Pastorick, the cor-rections spokesman,
confirmed. Those rel-atively small prisons
remain the only ones where mass testing
has been done.
Darrill Henry, who was in his 16th year
of a life sentence for double murder, noticed that “free folks” — as inmates call the
guards and medical staff — suddenly began
wearing face masks. One guard vomited in
a hallway; others began missing work. “I’m
wondering what’s going on,” he recalled.
“Nobody is telling us anything. Then, we
see on TV, they’re talking about coronavirus every day.”
Late on the morning of April 25, after
President Donald Trump suggested in a
White House news conference that sunlight
might kill the novel coronavirus, Jackson
watched in disbelief as guards ordered the
occupants of his dormitory to haul their
mattresses and pillows out to a prison yard
to be purified. The men left their beds on a
basketball court for about an hour, while a
team of inmates scoured the dormitory with
undiluted bleach.
By then, Jackson estimated, most of the
86 men in his dorm were already infected.
Ten of them had been taken to a makeshift
coronavirus isolation ward in a shuttered
part of the prison. Jackson estimated that
an additional 30 men had symptoms of the

virus — cough, aches, fatigue, shortness of
breath — but they were never tested.
On April 8, the Health Department’s senior official for emergency preparedness,
Dr. Jimmy Guidry, issued a short, seemingly straightforward set of recommendations
for the state’s prisons and jails. A similar
advisory had already been sent to Orleans
Parish, where the jail was facing a serious
Hands should be well-washed, the statelevel advisory said. Coughs and sneezes
should be covered. Sick inmates should be
isolated in “sick rooms.”
Prison officials should try to keep all inmates 6 feet apart, it said. If that was impossible, health officials recommended,
corrections officials should work with
prosecutors, judges and others “to reduce
the size of the jail population of the least
non-violent inmates.”
Probation officers and parole boards
were already recommending steps toward
the release of some people jailed for lessserious offenses. Still, the suggestion so
angered the corrections leadership, those
officials said, that the Health Department
was forced to immediately withdraw the
That same day, April 9, the corrections
department issued a long, public litany of
steps it had taken to mitigate the spread
of the coronavirus. Separately, Edwards
announced that the department was compiling a list of state prisoners eligible for
medical furloughs. (As of June 1, when the
furlough program was discontinued, the
state had released only 66 of 594 inmates
it considered, according to official figures.)
“My impression is that everybody’s attitude was: ‘We’re definitely not going to
test because the results would be horrible,
and we’d have to shut the entire place down
and we don’t want to do that. Let it burn
through here for 90 days and we’ll figure
it out.’”
In one dormitory, inmates encircled a
warden and demanded to be tested. “It’s
not going to happen,” one prisoner said he
told them.
In all there were 13 deaths at the prison in May, a figure more than three times
higher than during the same month a year
earlier. Nine were attributed to COVID-19.
The proportionally low number of coronavirus deaths at prisons around the country, especially when set against the scope
of some of the outbreaks, is emerging as a
new mystery of the pandemic. California,
for instance, has tested about one-fourth
Prison Covid News

of the roughly 115,000 inmates in its state
prisons, finding 3,730 COVID-19 cases.
But it has recorded only 19 prisoner deaths.
If the true spread of the disease inside
Angola has been as wide as many inmates
suspect, the prison may have been fortunate to escape with 12 confirmed deaths so
far — all but three of the total for Louisiana’s state prisons.
Rogers prays by Williams’ body as his
son, Kevin Cooks, stands at her side at a
funeral home in New Orleans on May 15,
2020. (Kathleen Flynn/ProPublica)
Williams’ attorney, Allyson Billeaud,
said she knew her client was particularly
vulnerable. In addition to his diabetes, he
had suffered a stroke in 2019 that left him
walking with a cane. Starting in early April,
she called Angola several times to ask that
he be isolated from sick inmates if possible. Corrections officials, she recalled, said
“they were taking all these precautions.”
Billeaud was Williams’ third defense attorney since he was sent to prison 45 years
earlier, but the first to push his innocence
claim. Among the facts she focused on
were that another convicted armed robber
had confessed to the murder, and that the
state’s chief witness had changed his account repeatedly. The lead detective in the
original investigation also provided Billeaud with an affidavit saying he believes
Williams was wrongly convicted.
In late April, Williams told one of his
sisters, Terry Rogers, that several men in
his dormitory were sick and someone in an
adjacent dormitory had died. “This stuff is
getting close,” he said. He was likely infected already.
They spoke on the phone every Sunday
night, and on May 3, Williams sounded
strange. The next night, another inmate
called her to say that Williams was sick
with a fever and chills. She began making
a flurry of calls to the prison the following
“Every number that I called, a different
person told me different things.” Eventually, Rogers said, she spoke to a senior guard
officer, Robert Wright, who told her he did
not have the virus. “He said, ‘I can assure
you of that.’”
Williams told relatives he was isolated
in a cell behind heavy metal doors. Later,
after he was moved, a nurse said he was being given oxygen, fluids and antibiotics but
was still having trouble breathing.
Over the next few days, although the
family called the prison repeatedly, it got
little information. One nurse said he was
Volume 1, Number 4

getting better. But the next day, May 9, a
doctor called from Our Lady of the Lake to
say that “he wasn’t going to make it.” By
the time they arrived, Williams was brain
“He was locked up for 40 years,” Rogers
said. “He lived in total hell, and even at the
end of his time, they treated him unfairly.
Not everyone going to prison is a criminal.
And even if they are, if anyone does wrong,
it don’t give you the right to mistreat them.
They still need to be treated when they are
sick.” 
Claire Perlman contributed reporting.

By Ed Mead
'll make this brief and clear: The Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, Article VI, Clause 2, states in full:
“This Constitution, and the laws of the
United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or
which shall be made, under the authority
of the United States, shall be the supreme
law of the land; and the judges in every
state shall be bound thereby, anything in
the Constitution or laws of any State to
the contrary notwithstanding.” (Emphasis
'Thirteenth Amendment to that same
constitution says “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have
been duly convicted, shall exist within the
United States, or any place subject to their
jurisdiction.” (Emphasis added)
Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
Article 4, a treaty the United States is a
signatory to clearly says: “No one shall be
held in slavery or servitude; slavery -- shall
be prohibited in all their forms.”
What the above tell us is that the Thirteenth Amendment continues slavery for
a segment of the American population.
Thus, we have at least 2.2 million slaves
in U.S. prisons. Back in the 1860s Harriet
Tubman, a former slave who organized an
underground railroad for escaped slaves,


is attributed as saying “I freed a thousand slaves, and could have saved another
thousand if only they’d known they were
slaves.” We have a similar problem with
today’s slaves inside the nation’s prisons,
they are too stupid to realize their status as
slaves of the state, or else too cowardly to
do anything about that status.
To put it simply, the Supremacy Clause
says, “all treaties made, or which shall be
made, under the authority of the United
States, shall be the supreme law of the
land….” The United States is a signatory
to the treaty, which of course says “No one
shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery -- shall be prohibited in all their forms.”
The first demand of the hunger striking
Walla Walls prisoners (see story on page
8) was rightly asking for better COVID-19
protections. The virus is a life and death issue. Then they move on to things like more
phones and access to explicit material,
more programming and greater freedom of
movement within the prison. The fact that
they are slaves of the state, disenfranchised
from the rights of citizenship like the right
to vote, does not seem to enter their collective consciousness. When the world is
coming down around them, they want better food and porn.
When I was young sodomy carried the
death penalty in Georgia. Today the struggle of gays has won them the right to marry
each other. Back then interracial marriages
were a crime in many states, today that has
changed. Possession of marijuana once carried draconian penalties. Pot heads fought
for and won the legalization of marijuana.
Why can prisoners win something as
simple as the right to vote? There are over
two million prisoners, something like 14
million former prisoners, other millions
under some form of supervision, and then
there are the families and friends of these
millions. The base of power is there, it need
only be peacefully and responsibly organized.
The struggles against slavery and for
democracy are bourgeois democratic demands, meaning they are not revolutionary
demands. It is your right to struggle for reforms such as democracy. Who is going to
stand against your demand to end slavery
in America, or your struggle for democratic rights such as your right to vote? Who
wants to take a stand against democracy?
Who is in favor of slavery? Raise your
hands! Right and justice are on your side.
You need only peacefully and responsibly
make the demand. 

California's San Quentin prison
declined free coronavirus tests and
urgent advice
The storied prison is dealing with the
third-largest coronavirus outbreak in the
United States. Researchers fear that other
institutions are at risk. Researchers in the
Bay Area say it didn’t have to be this way.
For the past four months, they have been
offering prison officials free tests for the
coronavirus, guidelines for protecting prisons from the pandemic and increasingly
frantic warnings that trouble was coming.
COVID-19 has invaded San Quentin
prison. To save lives, people must
be released
The number of people testing positive for
COVID-19 at San Quentin State Prison has
skyrocketed to more than 1,400, including six deaths so far. As a staff physician
who provides medical care to incarcerated
patients, I am devastated by the news, but
sadly, I’m not surprised. On a daily basis,
our medical teams work diligently within
the constraints of the prison system to limit
transmission, and our patients do what they
can to protect themselves in their environment, but the undeniable fact is that the
state prisons are well over capacity — despite court-mandated reductions over the
past several years. The only way to prevent
catastrophic loss of life both inside and
outside the prison system is to significantly
reduce the prison population.
Top medical officer for California
prisons ousted amid worsening
coronavirus outbreak
As COVID-19 infections spread rapidly
through California’s prisons, authorities on
July 6 announced the replacement of the
state correction system’s top medical officer, and Gov. Gavin Newsom criticized
an earlier decision to transfer hundreds of
inmates from a Chino facility that had been
battling an outbreak.

San Quentin COVID-19 outbreak
continues to grow; more than 1,600
active cases among inmates, staff
The COVID-19 outbreak at San Quentin
State Prison continued to escalate July 12
with more than 1,600 active cases among
inmates and staff. According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation COVID-19 tracker, the number of
active cases among inmates had increased
to 1,485 the 12th. Another 27 inmates had
been released from the facility while infected, 372 inmates once infected had recovered and seven inmates have died.
2 more San Quentin inmates die
amid virus outbreak
Two more San Quentin inmates have
died of suspected complications from COVID-19, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said. As of July
13th, 1,925 prisoners at the prison had contracted the virus and 10 had died. Of those
who tested positive, 410 patients have recovered, according to the state.
California to release 8,000 inmates
in effort to slow coronavirus
California officials will soon release another 2,100 inmates from state prisons in
response to the coronavirus pandemic and
in all now plans to release a total of more
than 10,000 inmates, or nearly 10 percent
of prisoners, as Gov. Gavin Newsom responds to intensifying pressure from advocates, lawmakers and federal judges.
Release of only 8,000 California
prisoners is not enough
California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced plans to release up to 8,000
people from state prisons by the end of
August. Aviram calls Newsom’s release
plan too little, too late, and that concerns
about public health take a backseat to wor-

ries about public backlash. The majority
of the releases will be people with a year
or less left to serve and who fit the “nonnon-non” criteria—nonviolent, nonserious,
nonsexual offenses—that guided prior efforts to reduce California’s prison population. Aviram writes “There is no correlation
between the crime of commitment and the
risk to public safety.” Aviram points out
that 8,000 people is only a small fraction
of the current population of the California
Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR)—112,500.
How coronavirus left parolees in
excruciating limbo after leaving
As with so many social brutalities, the
pandemic has exacerbated this problem.
Former prisoners reenter a world of soaring
unemployment and shuttered social service
offices. For those in Raoul’s position, even
the first step toward getting life on track —
getting an ID — is thwarted.
COVID-19 cases and deaths in
federal and state prisons significantly higher than in general pop.
A new analysis led by researchers at
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that the number of U.S.
prison residents who tested positive for
COVID-19 was 5.5 times higher than the
general U.S. population, with a prisoner
case rate of 3,251 per 100,000 residents as
compared to 587 cases per 100,000 in the
general population.
45 inmates test positive for
COVID-19 at North Carolina
Correctional Institution for Women
in Raleig
Authorities announced on Monday that
45 inmates tested positive for COVID-19
this past weekend at the North Carolina
Correctional Institution for Women in
Raleigh. A total of 227 offenders within a
housing unit were tested, and testing for
the entire facility will soon be conducted,
the North Carolina Department of Public
Safety said.
state/45-inmates-test-positive-for-covid19-at-north-carolina-correctional-institution-for-women-in/article_20efb72d-3dbbPrison Covid News

He was supposed to be in prison
less than a year. Instead, he died
after catching the coronavirus
At least 84 Texas state prisoners have
died after contracting the coronavirus. As
the death count rose, advocates unsuccessfully called on the governor and parole
board for early release. James Allen Smith
was only supposed to be at a Texas prison
for a matter of months, sentenced to a drug
and alcohol rehabilitation program after he
pled guilty to a DWI offense in January.
How coronavirus left parolees in
excruciating limbo after leaving
As with so many social brutalities, the
pandemic has exacerbated this problem.
Former prisoners reenter a world of soaring
unemployment and shuttered social service
offices. For those in Raoul’s position, even
the first step toward getting life on track —

getting an ID — is thwarted.
Studies: Covid-19 in jails and
prisons can threaten nearby communities
Covid-19 has raged throughout U.S. jails
and prisons, where people live together in
close quarters and there is little opportunity for social distancing, a lack of basic
sanitary supplies and high rates of chronic
disease. While inmates mostly stay behind
concrete walls and barbed wire, those barriers can't contain an infectious disease
like Covid-19. Not only can the virus be
brought into jails and prisons, but it also
can leave those facilities and spread widely
into surrounding communities and beyond.
Despite early warnings from
Volume 1, Number 4

governor's health advisers,
COVID-19 testing lags in Illinois
Experts Gov. J.B. Pritzker is relying on
to help him manage the COVID-19 pandemic in the state sent the governor's staff
emails in March that recommended coronavirus testing in prisons should be an area
of focus, but a new survey released by a
prison watchdog group found 89 percent of
workers said they had not been tested prior
to May.
Thousands of inmates quarantined
In Eastern Oregon prison In
COVID-19 outbreak
More than 3,100 inmates at the Snake
River Correctional Institution outside Ontario are under quarantine because of an
outbreak of COVID-19 at the facility.
New outbreaks push US inmate
coronavirus cases past 50,000
At the end of June, the total number of
coronavirus cases among prisoners had
reached at least 52,649, an increase of 8%
from the week before, according to data
compiled by the Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization focusing on criminal justice, and The Associated Press. At
the end of June, the total number of coronavirus cases among prisoners had reached
at least 52,649, an increase of 8% from the
week before.
Florida inmate COVID-19 cases
surpass 2,000
The number of Florida prisoners who
have tested positive for COVID-19 surpassed 2,000 on Tuesday, according to the
state Department of Corrections.
How COVID-19 in jails and prisons
threatens nearby communities
COVID-19 has raged throughout U.S.
jails and prisons, where people live together in close quarters and there is little oppor-

tunity for social distancing, a lack of basic
sanitary supplies and high rates of chronic
disease. While inmates mostly stay behind
concrete walls and barbed wire, those barriers can’t contain an infectious disease
like COVID-19. Not only can the virus be
brought into jails and prisons, but it also
can leave those facilities and spread widely
into surrounding communities and beyond.
Tragedy of COVID-19 in prisons
shows need for decarceration
Nine of the nation’s 10 largest outbreak
hotspots are jails and prisons. Because of
deep-seated racial inequities in the justice
system, failure to curb the virus’ spread
through corrections facilities will lead to
countless and needless deaths, disproportionately of people of color — once again
demonstrating the lack of value placed on
their lives. The incarceration rate of Black
individuals is over five times that of white
individuals, and about three in five individuals in prison are Black or Latinx — nearly
double their share of the country’s population. We cannot allow over-incarceration to
become a de facto death sentence for the
millions — disproportionately people of
color — behind bars.
US prison inmates among those hit
hard with COVID-19
COVID-19 cases in US federal and
state prisons were 5.5 times higher—and
death rates three times higher—than in the
general population according to research
published yesterday in JAMA. A total of
42,107 of 1,295,285 prisoners had been
infected with the novel coronavirus, for
a case rate of 3.25%, versus 0.59% in the
general US population. In the US population, there had been 1,920,904 coronavirus
cases and 95,608 deaths.
3 more TDCJ inmates die after
contracting COVID-19; county Jails,
federal prisons continue to battle
Three more inmates have died after contracting COVID-19, according to the Texas
Department of Criminal Justice. Mean5

while, county jails and federal prisons continue to battle outbreaks of the virus. To
date, nine TDCJ employees have died after
contracting the virus.
Prisoners 550% more likely to get
Covid-19, 300% more likely to die,
new study shows
Prisoners are 5.5 times more likely to get

The only way to end slavery
is to stop being a slave.
Chris Hedges
Covid-19 and three times more likely to die
from it, according to a study from researchers at Johns Hopkins and UCLA published
today in JAMA, putting numbers to disparate evidence of the virality of the disease
in prison settings. With the findings, the
researchers conclude systemic change is
needed: “COVID-19 in US prisons is unlikely to be contained without implementation of more effective infection control.”
North Texas federal prison has
largest number of COVID-19 cases
among inmates in the nation
A North Texas federal prison has
emerged as the prison with the largest
number of coronavirus cases in the nation.
According to federal records updated daily,
37% of inmates at the Federal Correctional
Institute in Seagoville have contracted the
virus as of Friday afternoon. Families with
loved ones at the penitentiary east of Dallas
plan to protest near the prison on Saturday.
Judge: NC prisons out of
compliance with court orders
North Carolina prisons are out of compliance with a court order, a judge said Friday afternoon. A month ago, Wake County
Superior Court Judge Vinston Rozier Jr.
ruled that conditions in state prisons were
likely unconstitutional in light of the global

COVID-19 pandemic. In that June hearing, Rozier ordered the state to take several
actions. The N.C. Department of Public
Safety, which oversees prisons, needed to
create a plan to test all people in state prison custody for COVID-19, limit transfers
between prisons, account for disparities
between prison responses to COVID-19
and to expand the criteria that would allow
people to be released from prison sooner.
In the order, Rozier wrote that the “state
has failed to comply with the Court’s directions in several meaningful ways,” and
that the court “is extremely concerned by
the apparent indifference with which Defendants have treated the Court’s Orders.”
Protesters seek release of
non-violent offenders because of
COVID-19 said the protests were
held simultaneously in St. George and
Ogden outside county prosecutor offices
Friday night. “There are ankle bracelets,
things like that where they can be monitored. We don’t think that a jail sentence
equals a death sentence,” said Malik Dayo
of Black Lives Matter.
At Coyote Ridge, amid 229
COVID-19 cases, inmates say conditions are ‘disgusting’
Beverly Richmond’s son spent up to 36
hours at a time locked in a 6-by-9-foot
cell with another prisoner and no toilet.
She said he peed in water bottles and defecated in a coffee can. As of JUly 10, the
prison had reported 229 confirmed cases of
COVID-19 in prisoners and two prisoner
deaths from the disease. At the same time,
54 staff members have tested positive with
no deaths.
Rights commission warns
COVID-19 spreading in Iraqi prisons
The Iraqi High Commission for Human
Rights on Friday afternoon warned of increasing numbers of coronavirus cases
inside the country's prisons and called for
immediate measures to curb the spread

of the highly-contagious disease in such
facilities. "The commission's monitoring
teams in Baghdad and other provinces have
reported coronavirus infections among inmates and prison employees," the body
said in a statement.
Prisoners 550% more likely to get
Covid-19, 300% more likely to die,
new study shows
Prisoners are 5.5 times more likely to get
Covid-19 and three times more likely to die
from it, according to a study from researchers at Johns Hopkins and UCLA published
today in JAMA, putting numbers to disparate evidence of the virality of the disease
in prison settings. With the findings, the
researchers conclude systemic change is
needed: “COVID-19 in US prisons is unlikely to be contained without implementation of more effective infection control.”
Thousands of Texas prisoners have
the virus. More than 25% of cons at
four units are COVID positive
At one prison, more than 750 inmates
were actively infected with the coronavirus
on July 13. Two Texas prisons each have
more than 670 inmates with active coronavirus infections, according to the Texas
Department of Criminal Justice, the highest counts seen at any state lockup since the
pandemic began.
COVID-19 testing at Kentucky state
prisons questioned
We wanted to know what percentage of
inmates have had access to COVID-19 testing. Among Kentucky’s state prisons, 2,632
COVID-19 tests have been given among
roughly 11,200 inmates. If you assume one
test was given to one inmate, it represents
about 23% of the prison population tested
for coronavirus. But since many inmates,
like Erica, were re-tested to confirm if they
could be removed from isolation, the percentage of inmates actually tested for COVID-19 is likely much lower.
COVID News ......... Continued on page 10
Prison Covid News

by Bryan Mac Donald
ovid-19 is a pandemic that has hit
the planet hard, and in doing so,
inmates are taking a beating. With
prisoners lawfully and constitutionally
based rights being ignored and blatantly
disregarded it becomes so easy to look at
a system that has been broken for a long,
long time and scream “See I told you so.”
For a long time those in support of this system have done a good job of keeping it held
together with legal Band-Aids so to speak,
so when Joe Q. public gives it a look over
the system may appear to have a few flaw,
but without deeply scrutinizing it, a quick
look would bring no obvious huge pit falls
into view and the public eye could just
skim right over the damage blocked from
view by the Band-Aids.
But Covid is changing all that if those of
us who fight for much needed reform to the
system take full advantage of it. The path
of the destruction Covid is leaving behind
can literally be seen from space, but we are
the human race and we always rise out the
ashes strong and better than before, and in
light of what Covid is doing to the justice
system I beg all who Fight the Fight for reform to the justice system to stand up and
Fight Now. My current situation is a great
I am currently a pre-trial detainee of
the Lane County Adult Corrections Facility, the jail in Eugene Oregon. Like other
inmates across this state and the nation so
many of my rights have been taken. This
jail has suspended all church services and
social visits, claiming things like the phone
provider Telmate is giving us extra phone
and tablet visit privileges to replace our social visits, and even making these claims
publicly the news, putting on a mask of
compassion. What they leave out is that
over and over inmates file grievances based
on the so called free services no working
or being provided. The jail has cancelled
all forms of programming, education, AA,
have all stopped happening. Even the kind
volunteer lady who organizes and distributes library books has been refused entry
into the jail, all in the name of Covid-19.
The jail claims stopping all these things
like social visits, which are done with
plexiglass window making it no threat to
bringing Covid-19 into the building, yet
that is why they claim they do it, and all
along the staff refuse to use form of Per-


Volume 1, Number 4

sonal Protective Equipment like masks. It’s
obvious by their actions this facility does
not take steps to ensure the inmate population is safe, but instead just takes advantage
of the pandemic to cut out thing that cost
them money, or cause them to do work. If it
was actually about safety things like social
visits done with a barrier causing zero risk
would still be allowed, and things like officers roaming around quarantine with no
masks on them leaving quarantine and potentially spreading this deadly virus would
not be going on.
And the worst part is that none of this
I have yet mentioned is the worst part being done to us. As I stated I am a pretrial
detainee meaning above and beyond the
rights afforded to all prisoners, myself and
the other pretrial detainees of this jail have
rights to speedy and fair trials, and rights
to access the courts, meaning our attorneys,
we still have all rights to due process.
In the State of Oregon a defendant has
a right to have their trial held within 60
days of arrest should they choose, and if
it does not occur to be released and await
trial at home (O.R.S.136.290). I personally have not signed the waiver consenting
to trial past 60 days but on day 151 have
yet to be released. And I am not alone. No
trials were held for months, and now that
they have begun again because of the size
of court rooms in Lane County in order to
allow social distancing 3 courtrooms are
needed for one trial, meaning only 2 jury
trials can occur at once. Meaning a system
with tons of trials to catch up on is still
growing larger, not smaller, and our right
to speedy trials is non-existent.
Furthermore our rights in regards to access to the courts through our attorneys are
all but vanished. The 9th Circuit Courts
rules that access to attorneys must include
in person visits, something Lane County
Facility took from the start. For months all
attorney visits have happened behind the
glass partitions that were once used for social visits and defendants have no way to
go over or review potential evidence with
their council.
So I did not write this letter to the editor
with simply a desire to complain, although
anyone dealing with a similar circumstance
will know how therapeutic it can be to do
so, instead I write this in hopes of encouraging more to Join the Fight and to see that
there has never been a time with more po-

tential to enact much needed change, because of what I’m calling Justice Reforms
one-two punch. #1…the Covid crisis gave
judges, jails, prisons and officers alike to
make sure people’s rights are respected
during this pandemic, or to do what most of
them instead chose to do, and always did,
use the situation to violate peoples right.
And I truly believe like most of history they
would have gotten away with it except for
the very sad and disgusting event that accounts for punch two in Justice Reform…
George Floyd’s murder by an officer’s
knee in the back of his neck has drawn in
so much public opinion on the matter that
federal and state governments are having
special sessions to enact laws and cause
reform to happen, and it’s for that reason
I write.
I scream at the top of my lungs…Stand
up and Fight Now with us. There are many
ways injustice can be fought, but some
ways can only be fought by certain people.
One was to fight is through the courts with
lawsuits, but only those being wronged can
file a law suit, Joe Q. public cannot. If you
are currently having your rights violated
due to the Covid-19 virus, put in a request
to your facility for a Section 1983 complaint form, seek out assistance in filing
it out and file today. Do not worry about
not having an attorney, that can be found
later, and the courts are understanding of
mistakes made my inmates. I myself have
filed suit against the Governor of the State
of Oregon, Sherriff of Lane County and director of the facility I’m in. We, being the
ones the violations of rights are happening
to are in a position no one else is in to enact
change, and being the victims of these violated I say it’s our duty to do this.
It’s not a fun or easy process, it’s lots of
hard work and hours writing hand written
documents, and comes with expected retaliation from the facility, but the positive
side is that with the atrocity done to George
Floyd the public has got your back. The
public support I have received form people, organizations and news media since
the starts has filled up a small jail provided
address book with new connections waiting to help.
If you want to change the system you
are in, or know someone in it here is your
chance, and I scream from the inside of this
single-man isolation cell they provide me
as payment for doing my part… 

By Joseph Neff and Dan Kane
wo prison guards pushed a wheelchair carrying 79-year-old Alan
Hurwitz into the airport here. Convicted of bank robberies a decade before,
Hurwitz had been freed from a nearby federal prison by a judge who found him no
threat to society—and at high risk of contracting COVID-19.
A week and a half later, Juan Ramon, 60,
also boarded a plane at Raleigh-Durham
International Airport, this time bound for
Miami. He had been serving a two-year
sentence for identity theft and had many
health problems, which prompted his release by another federal judge.
Though officials at the Butner federal
prison had opposed their release for weeks,
the men were finally on their way home.
But they did not escape the virus. The
prison did not test either man for COVID-19—and they carried it with them onto
the planes. Within days, one was dead.
Their stories highlight systemic problems in the Bureau of Prison’s botched response to the coronavirus pandemic. About
7,000 prisoners in the care of the U.S. government have contracted COVID-19; 94
have died. More than 700 infected correctional officers have carried the virus back
and forth between their communities and
their workplaces.
Nowhere in the federal system has the
outbreak been as deadly as at the giant
Butner complex about 15 miles northeast
of Durham. Twenty-five prisoners there
perished from COVID-19, the most of any
federal lockup. Butner is also the only BOP
prison to have a confirmed staff death.
Butner is emblematic in other ways. Prison officials were slow to test for the disease, enabling infected men to spread the
virus to their neighbors in cramped dorms
where social distancing is impossible. In
sworn affidavits, prisoners reported they
went untested for six weeks or more even
as their dorm mates fell ill, were taken to
hospital and died. Officials moved infected
men among the complex’s five units.
Correctional officers and prisoner workers shuttling between units became coronavirus vectors inside the prison—and outside its walls as well. Across the country,
guards have been linked to outbreaks in
their communities; releasing incarcerated
people without testing them also exposed



people on the outside.
Despite an order from the U.S. Attorney General to send medically vulnerable
prisoners home, Butner officials were slow
to release them. Butner has a hospital and
four prisons filled with thousands of chronically sick men. Yet over two months, officials released fewer than 50 out of 4,700
incarcerated people to home confinement.
That’s less than 1 percent, while the average for BOP prisons is 2.5 percent, according to court records and agency statistics. 

Due to COVID-19, Washington state is
facing a budget deficit of $9 billion over
the next three years. Each department has
been asked to submit proposed budget cuts
for savings and agency budget reductions.
DOC has proposed the following cuts to
programs that support incarcerated people:
• Graduated re-entry programs: $540,000
• Housing vouchers program expansion:
• Community chemical dependency program: $1.5 Million
• Sentencing reforms (Good time credits,
etc.): $167 Million 



n the last issue of Prison Covid we reported on the hunger strike by prisoners
at the Washington State Penitentiary in
Walla Walla. We did not have the space to
print their demands in that issue. Here they
1. Real masks, replaced regularly and
sufficiently cleaned
2. Safe food not prison processed/clarity where it is coming from and quarterly
fresh food boxes from grocery stores not
processed foods.
3. Increased pay for prisoners’ labor
4. Expanded Visiting: Free regular video
visits to connect with family & their children. More in person visiting when visiting
at the facility opens back up.
5. More Phones

6.Education & Self Help Programming
(especially for Echo and Delta Units that
currently have none)
7. Eliminate level system that keeps prisoners in their cells for longer periods of
8. Eliminate restrictive movement schedules: more movement for the day room,
shower and open yard for all.
9. Media: Allow 2 TV’s in a cell, jpay
players, don’t censor explicit material.
10. Hygiene: Barbers
We do not know how the strike ended
or at this time have any other information.
The disadvantage of a hunger strike is of
course that it cannot last long enough for
outside support to become a factor in the
outcome of the struggle. The tactic is generally initiated as a last ditch effort. 



e are compelled by recent events
to join other state supreme
courts around the nation in addressing our legal community.
The devaluation and degradation of black
lives is not a recent event. It is a persistent
and systemic injustice that predates this
nation’s founding. But recent events have
brought to the forefront of our collective
consciousness a painful fact that is, for too
many of our citizens, common knowledge:
the injustices faced by black Americans are
not relics of the past. We continue to see
racialized policing and the overrepresentation of black American sin every stage of
our criminal and juvenile justice systems.
Our institutions remain affected byt he vestiges of slavery: Jim Crow laws that were
never dismantled and racist court decisions
that were never disavowed.
The legal community must recognize
that we all bear responsibility for this ongoing injustice, and that we are capable of
taking steps to address it, if only we have
the courage and the will. The injustice still
plaguing our country has its roots in the
individual and collective actions of many,
and it cannot be addressed without the individual and collective actions of us all.
As judges, we must recognize the role
we have played in devaluing black lives.
This very court once held that a cemetery
Prison Covid News

could lawfully deny grieving black parents
the right to bury their infant. We cannot
undo this wrong⸺but we can recognize
our ability to do better in the future. We can
develop a greater awareness of our own
conscious and unconscious biases in order
to make just decisions in individual cases,
and we can administer justice and support
court rules in a way that brings greater racial justice to our system as a whole.
As lawyers and members of the bar, we
must recognize the harms that are caused
when meritorious claims go unaddressed
due to systemic inequities or the lack of financial, personal, or systemic support. And
we must also recognize that this is not how
a justice system must operate. Too often
in the legal profession, we feel bound by
tradition and the way things have “always”
been. We must remember that even the
most venerable precedent must be struck
down when it is incorrect and harmful. The
systemic oppression of black Americans
is not merely incorrect and harmful; it is
shameful and deadly.
Finally, as individuals, we must recognize that systemic racial injustice against
black Americans is not an omnipresent
specter that will inevitably persist. It is the
collective product of each of our individual
actions—every action, every day. It is only
by carefully reflecting on our actions, taking individual responsibility for them, and
constantly striving for better that we can
address the shameful legacy we inherit.
We call on every member of our legal community to reflect on this moment and ask
ourselves how we may work together to
eradicate racism.
As we lean in to do this hard and necessary work, may we also remember to support our black colleagues by lifting their
voices. Listening to and acknowledging
their experiences will enrich and inform
our shared cause of dismantling systemic
We go by the title of “Justice” and we
reaffirm our deepest level of commitment
to achieving justice by ending racism. We
urge you to join us in these efforts. This is
our moral imperative.
Debra L. Stephens, Chief Justice
Susan Owens, Justice
Mary I. Yu,Justice
Charles W. Johnson,Justice
Steven C. González,Justice
Raquel Montoya-Lewis, Justice
Barbara A. Madsen,Justice
Sheryl Gordon McCloud,Justice
G. Helen Whitener, Justice 
Volume 1, Number 4



nd now for a bit of shameless selfpromotion....
In 2015 I published an autobiography titled Lumpen. Yeah, a poor choice of
name. The book has five out of five stars on
Amazon’s book reviews, yet it has not sold
well. Of the reviews of this book the one
I am most proud of comes from the Texas
Department of Corrections. When a prisoner there ordered a copy of Lumpen it was
rejected by prison officials for the following reason: “It contains material that a reasonable person would construe as written
solely for the purpose of
communicating information designed to achieve
the breakdown of prisons
through offender disruption such as strikes, riots
or security threat group
While reviews by outside people have consistently been positive, it was
the response of prisoners
that have made me feel
best. I have received more
than a few phone calls
from convicts across the
country telling me what a
great book it was, and in two cases I was
told they are using the book in prisoner
study groups. That is good, because the
book was specifically written for prisoners.
In July of 2016 MIM Prisons wrote a review of Lumpen, it concluded like this: “’if
the immediate demands address prisoners’
rights and living conditions, then the backwards elements will either be won over
or neutralized by the growing consciousness of the rest of the population.’(p. 305)
This was one of the most inspiring parts of
Mead’s story. In a situation where the prison system was dominated by one lumpen
organization (LO) that was guided by self-

interest, Mead had the revolutionary fearlessness to organize those victimized by
the LO to build a mass movement that the
whole population came to identify with.”
“’An organization that depends upon
one person for direction is doomed to fail;
each level of cadre should be able to take
the place of a fallen or transferred comrade, even if that person occupies a leadership position.’(p. 306) Mead learned this
from experience, both in situations where
[he] was that sole leader and others where
[he] was surrounded by a dedicated cadre.
Inspiring stories include
first strike ever at McLumpen the
Neil Island, which had
100% participation. (p.
139) While many of the
$20.00 * challenges of prison organizing are still the same
decades later, you’ll find
many other inspiring stories in this book as well.
It demonstrates both the
importance of the prison
movement as part of the
overall movement for liberation and against imperialism, while showing
the limitations of a prison
movement that is not complemented by
strong movements on the outside. As the
current struggle focused on police murders
continues to ferment, we work to build a
prison movement, and they will feed each
other as we move towards the next revolutionary period in history. “
the autobiography of Ed Mead

"...shows the limitations
of a prison movement that
is not complemented by
strong movements on the
You can order the book from Amazon
or your favorite left-leaning bookstore.
The price of the book is a whopping $20.
I did not know this until I wrote this book,
but I as the author get only one dollar for
each book sold. The rest goes to middlemen. Anyway, you can also order the book
from me for 51 forever stamps or by check
for $19 (I’ll blow off my buck profit). Any
and all money or stamps sent to me will go
toward the publication of the Prison Covid
newsletter and website. 

COVID News ....... Continued from page 6
COVID-19 cases spike at Eastern
Oregon prison
New numbers released from the Oregon
Department of Corrections show a spike
in cases of COVID-19 at the Snake River
Correctional Institution in Ontario. The
disease is currently infecting at least 120
people in custody and 21 staff. The prison houses more than 2,700 inmates, who
are being quarantined to slow the spread.
[Editor's Note: there are 36 staff and 141
prisoner virus positive at OSP, this is out of
only 621 people tested.]
For 25 cents a minute, Lehigh
County Jail inmates can now
connect with family via video
The coronavirus locked the Lehigh
County Jail from both directions, with inmates quarantined mostly inside their cells,

and outside visitors banned since early
March from entering the Allentown facility. The long-awaited installation of a video
visitation system at the jail late last month
should help. For 25 cents a minute, prisoners can now use a tablet computer to chat
with loved ones.
South Florida federal corrections
officers warn of potential
coronavirus crisis brewing
Workers at a federal prison in South
Florida are warning about a potential coronavirus outbreak that they say could spread
beyond the prison's walls. “Our inmates
are testing positive and we might have to
flood the local hospitals. We have numerous inmates all over in Dade county hospitals," said Kareen Troitino, President of
Union Local 3690, which represents the
correctional officers at the federal prison in
Southwest Miami-Dade. "Yesterday alone
we discovered in one area that held 60
inmates over 22 tested positive and that’s
only after testing 28," he said. "We don’t
know where this is going to lead but it

looks catastrophic at the moment."
Veteran Michigan corrections
officer dies from COVID-19
Randy Rumler, a two-decade veteran of
the Michigan Department of Corrections,
has died after a battle with COVID-19.
Inmates and loved ones connected to the
Harrison facility have expressed concerns
that the department introduced COVID-19
to the facility by using it as a "step-down"
unit for people who had earlier tested positive for the virus but didn't currently have
it, and weren't yet ready to return to their
home facility.

Hopeful for unity...
Eager for change.
David Carr, Oregon SHU

Prison Covid
PO Box 48064
Burien, WA 98148