The Human Rights Coalition has forwarded the following Senate of Pennsylvania Session of 2021-2022 Regular Session Memorandum promulgated by Pennsylvania Senators The Honorable Anthony H. Williams, The Honorable Sharif Street, and The Honorable Nikil Saval. Senators Williams, Street, and Saval are proposing legislation that resolves the contagious and deadly COVID-19 Prison Pandemic by providing “automatic eligibility” . Citizens throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania are being asked by the Human Rights Coalition to (A) contact their State Senator (https:.//www.legis.state.pa.us/) and impress upon them the need to co-sponsor this life saving legislation (B) share the information with others in their network; (C) follow-up with State Senators to ascertain if they have signed on as co-sponsors for this legislation; and (D) ask souls in their networks to contact their State Senators and ask them to co-sponsor the legislation and follow up with them to determine if they have done so.
SENATE OF PENNSYLVANIA SESSION OF 2021 - 2022 REGULAR SESSION MEMORANDUM
January 28, 2021 02:09 PM
All Senate members
Expanded Eligibility for Medical and Elderly Release to Mitigate COVID-19 in PA’s Prisons
In the near future, we will be introducing legislation to expand eligibility and improve the process for reprieve of prison sentences for the elderly and infirm during the COVID-19 pandemic. From the beginning of the crisis, and especially since November 2020, the rate of COVID-19 infections has increased dramatically at our state correctional institutions. To date, over 9,200 incarcerated people and 4,065 institutional staff have tested positive for COVID-19. This, in turn, has resulted in 97 deaths for those confined within the prison and sparked possibilities of community spread with prison staff. 20 percent of those deaths have taken place in the first two weeks of 2021, and incarcerated people are dying at a rate three times higher than Pennsylvania at large.
people are among the most marginalized members of our society. They are
considered undeserving of basic rights and are often marked throughout their
lives -- no matter how good their conduct in prison -- as “criminals.” The
COVID-19 pandemic only deepens this marginalization. At a time when
hygiene and physical space are public health imperatives, the tight quarters
in Pennsylvania’s prisons make social distancing virtually impossible. Trying
to overcome these constraints, the Department of Corrections has placed
infected individuals in solitary confinement—a punitive measure for people
that have done nothing wrong other than being exposed to the virus.
Similarly, the dozens of incarcerated people that have died from the virus
received a form of capital punishment, to which no judge sentenced them, and
for crimes they did not commit.
Pennsylvania legislature can stop this. In April, Governor Wolf and Secretary
of Corrections John Wetzel announced a targeted reprieve effort to protect
the lives of inmates who are particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus given
their advanced age or health conditions. Our bill builds on the Governor’s
Executive Order to create a streamlined process for identifying and releasing
inmates who are not a danger to community safety. It establishes
automatic eligibility for all inmates over the age of 65 or
with comorbidities which make them especially vulnerable to
coronavirus. It then allows those eligible to return home where they can
properly protect themselves from COVID-19.
Time is of the essence and the unprecedented deadliness of the virus demands swift, decisive actions. As COVID-19 cases rise throughout the country, it is our responsibility to make sure the most vulnerable people have the means to protect themselves, and by extension, others. This includes both prisoners and correctional staff. Please join us in co-sponsoring this very important legislation.