Can I blame this on the presence of Covid in the world in general? In my life? In the lives of my loved ones? Or is it because my focus has shifted to creative writing on subjects not related to prisons? I am not sure.
Because the volunteer work I was doing behind prison walls stopped (due to Covid), I suppose I have thought less about this issue. Also, frankly I at times easily delude myself and imagine that people (wardens, state, county and city officials) are doing the right thing.
Well, I can’t give myself any comfort.
This pandemic, climate change, health issues, other creative endeavors all have distracted me and, well, I just wanted to believe things weren’t awful. (“I want to believe.”) After all, haven’t we seen some prison systems doing early releases? Didn’t the jail in Albuquerque report on excellent safety measures to give a sense that it was properly handling this virus? Aren’t the judges being more lenient and granting bail options so that jails and prisons aren’t overcrowded?
Here’s what I learned once I started paying attention again.
According to the UCLA Law Covid Behind Bars Data Project, as of September 2021, there have been 199.6 Covid deaths per 100,000 people in prisons and jails — compared to 80.9 per 100,000 in the total general population in the US.
In short: more than twice as much Covid has killed in prisons and jails compared to outside the walls.
There have been protests in some jails and prisons on this issue – per Time Magazine these protests have been in the Westville Correctional Facility in Indiana, the St. Louis City Justice Center and in the Santa Clara County (California) jails, to name a few. How many protests do not make the news?
As a former active war protestor, I know how many protests did not make the news. So I doubt the general public (or me) know the extent of this.
I question myself – is there a reason why I have drawn in and tried to just focus on myself, my family, our health? When we all come out of the pandemic, will we be more callous?