Leading Criminal Justice Reform Nonprofit Outlines Federal & State Recommendations for Immediate Emergency Preparedness Plans for Those in System
June 23, 2020 — New York, NY — Today, JustLeadershipUSA, the organization that empowers people most affected by incarceration to drive policy reform, launches the #JustUs campaign, a nation-wide call for policymakers to decarcerate the United States by immediately adopting federal and state-based policy recommendations to save the lives of incarcerated people during any type of major crisis or emergency, especially timely given an anticipated COVID-19 second wave this year.
In a world with increasing natural and man-made disasters, having an emergency management plan in place to release the country’s most vulnerable people, most of whom are disproportionately Black and Brown, is the difference between life and death. Yet while state emergency plans include labor by the detained, including digging graves in New York and putting out wildfires in California, there are little to no emergency management plans to save their lives.
“By neglecting the safety of millions of people currently trapped in correctional facilities, our society, elected officials and those currently in power, are showing – once again – that Black and Brown people are disposable in the United States,” said DeAnna Hoskins, President & CEO of JustLeadershipUSA. “This type of systemic racism is the result of the generational legacy of slavery, and changing effective policy is critical to decarcerating the United States. They were sentenced to time not death. It’s time to act NOW!”
But this is not the first time incarcerated people’s lives have been at risk during a crisis. During Hurricane Katrina, while the incarcerated people were left for days without food, water or adequate ventilation — and then left to die on top of a bridge with the flood waters rising around them — the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (LSPCA) quickly attended to the stray cats and dogs, far faster than the government did for its own people. During Hurricane Irene there was no evacuation plan for those on Rikers Island, and again during Hurricane Sandy.
The campaign’s policy recommendations require all pipelines of the criminal justice system — from courts to jails to law enforcement — to act in sync, to release people and save human lives. The recommendations:
- Provide a triage of experts in the field of emergency management and public health to create plans that govern every emerging disaster.
- Empower the Department of Corrections to act without legislative or judicial intervention when a pandemic or crisis is declared.
- Require the Department of Corrections to evacuate when necessary to decarcerate, utilizing public health triage mechanisms according to highest risk, i.e. pregnant women, people with respiratory illnesses, those over 50 and those within two years of release.
- Demand medical and humane treatment of those remaining, by providing access to the necessary safety precautions and forbidding the use of solitary confinement as a means of meeting those requirements.
- Demand immediate stop gap of jail intakes into Department of Corrections custody.
- Require judges use alternatives to incarceration when possible to avoid detention at all costs.
- No fee shall force someone to be detained, including cash bail or any past debts.
- Stop all arrests for technical violations, and eliminate in person reporting and drug testing
- Demand law enforcement cite and release in lieu of arrest.
- Require a constant network of reentry services to transition people to ensure their success and safety after incarceration.
- Create an independent oversight mechanism and reporting to legislatures for enforcement and compliance.
The full list of recommendations and comprehensive platform can be found here.
“The #JustUs campaign policy recommendations can and should be adopted immediately via Executive Order,” said Dr. Melissa A. Surette (Savilonis), an adjunct professor and emergency management professional studying the effects emergencies and disasters have on prison systems in the United States. “The outreach strategy provided allows for a unified approach, which is important. In the past ten years I’ve seen various efforts at the local level, but not in sync with one another. The recommendations will provide the platform needed to effect change.”
The #JustUs campaign launches on social media and with advocates in 10 key locations — Alaska, New York, New Jersey, Michigan, South Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Wisconsin — who have been formerly incarcerated themselves demanding their representatives create formal official plans to protect those in jails, prisons and correctional facilities across the U.S. and in their states from natural and man-made disasters.
People can get involved by demanding that their elected officials have emergency plans in place to release our country’s and our community’s most vulnerable immediately, and in case of guaranteed future disasters. Your involvement can expand this platform to the other 40 States including DC.
To learn more and join the #JustUs campaign, visit: https://jlusa.org.
Silvie Snow-Thomas, firstname.lastname@example.org
JustLeadershipUSA is the non-profit building a national movement to decarcerate the United States. The organization, led by directly impacted people, is dedicated to doing so by empowering the people and communities most impacted by the criminal justice system to drive, amplify, and sustain policy reform. Learn more about JustLeadershipUSA at https://jlusa.org and on social media via Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.