June 16, 2022
It has been more than a year since the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections vaccinated its inmate population. Mask mandates have been lifted. The unvaccinated have been allowed off quarantine and spread throughout general population. And yet here we are, another year gone, and the pandemic restrictions limiting activity and quality of life within the prisons remain. The PADOC has successfully used a deadly pandemic as a smoke screen to institute many of the wide-ranging and destructive restrictions it’s wanted all along.
Many of us served as “essential” workers during the pandemic, tirelessly disinfecting the blocks, preparing food and distributing trays. We toiled for long hours to keep the prisons running, with the understanding that Covid was an unprecedented situation that required all of us to work together. Besides those few lucky enough to work, the majority of us were stuck confined in our cells for days and weeks and months on end. It was tough on all of us, but we made it through, and to show its appreciation for our cooperation the PADOC has chosen to keep its pandemic restrictions in place indefinitely.
Continue reading “An Open Letter to the Incarcerated of Pennsylvania”
An Excerpt from Felon: The New Slur Word by Justin Guyton
Chapter 7: Inhumane Conditions
One of the issues that prisoners face in maintaining their health is the inadequate medical treatment that is given to prisoners. We all know that medical treatment isn’t cheap, but just because a person is incarcerated doesn’t mean that they don’t have the right to adequate care. The nursing staff and the majority of the doctors suggest the same remedy for pretty much any health issue a prisoner may face: “Take these ibuprofen, drink lots of water, and get some rest.” They know that this one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t solve most problems that are brought to their attention, but this is one of the many tactics that are used in an attempt to save money at the expense of the prisoners’ health. These same individuals who took an oath to provide adequate care to those that they encounter are doing the exact opposite. Depending on the illness, this type of ploy can often result in tragedy.
Some years back, I had a friend that for the point of this story I won’t reveal his name out of respect for his family. This friend was serving a three-year sentence that he’d almost completed. As a means of escape in addition to staying in shape he would work out regularly.
I’d ended up being moved to another housing unit due to the dormitory that I was previously in was being used to house prisoners whom were lacking their GED. Though no longer in the same dorm, my friend and I would cross paths regularly. A few weeks after I was moved, my friend tragically passed away at twenty-three years old.
Continue reading “Inhumane Conditions”
Prison Health News is honored to share these testimonies from inside State Correctional Institution (SCI) Fayette, one of Pennsylvania’s 24 prisons. While many prisons force people to live in environmentally toxic and unsafe conditions, the case of SCI Fayette is shockingly severe. We hope these testimonies encourage everyone reading this to get involved in the fight to shut down SCI Fayette. For more info, please check out Abolitionist Law Center’s report, No Escape: Exposure to Toxic Coal Waste at SCI Fayette. To get involved in the fight to finally shut this prison down, reach out to the Human Rights Coalition at salenacoca (at) gmail (dot) com or write to Human Rights Coalition, Attention: Toxic Prisons Committee, PO Box 34580, Philadelphia, PA 19101. Continue reading “Survivors of SCI Fayette’s Toxic Water and Coal Ash Speak Out”
By Suzy Subways
A national coalition led by the Working Group Against COVID-19 Death Chambers is forming to fight for controlled evacuations of incarcerated people—and it needs you.
For the past year, loved ones of incarcerated people and other activists have pressured states to release large numbers of people from prisons in order to prevent massive loss of life. But very few people have been released, and as a result of prison conditions, one in five incarcerated people have gotten COVID-19. According to the UCLA COVID-19 Behind Bars Data Project, at least 2,368 incarcerated people have died in the U.S. from the virus so far. Continue reading “Louisiana Activists Launch National Coalition to Demand Controlled Evacuations of Prisons During the Pandemic”
By Olivia Pandolfi
From PHN Issue 42, Spring 2020
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, people around the world are mobilizing to demand the release of incarcerated people. The prison system poses a legitimate public health threat because it is difficult to practice social distancing while incarcerated. As a result, the virus spreads quickly, usually after being introduced by a guard or other workers.
People with loved ones in prison and who want to abolish prisons have mounted phone zapping, letter-writing, tweet storming, and other campaigns to pressure officials to decrease the population of prisons and jails. These demands to release people often center aging, immune-compromised, and other vulnerable populations, but can extend to everyone. In many cities, car caravans or “drive-ins” have been organized to disrupt traffic and show support for decarceration measures while keeping participants safely distanced from one another in their cars. In these protests, people deck out their cars with signs and slogans such as FreeThemAll4PublicHealth and #FreeOurPeople, naming local officials to demand action.
An interview with activist and longtime Prison Health News editor Teresa Sullivan
By Suzy Subways
From PHN Issue 40, Summer/Fall 2019
Teresa Sullivan, who has been a vital part of keeping Prison Health News going for the
past ten years, is leaving the editorial collective. We are overwhelmed with gratitude for
her wisdom and guidance over the years, and we are so excited to support her amazing
work in the world moving forward. From teaching classes at Philadelphia FIGHT to her
leadership role in the Positive Women’s Network, a social justice organization of women
living with HI V , T eresa helps so many people grow stronger and smarter . In this interview,
we asked Teresa to tell us more about her work and vision. Continue reading ““There’s People Like Myself and Others Out Here Fighting for You””
By Elisabeth Long
From PHN Issue 34, Fall 2017
“Money kept them in. Black love got them out.”
— Pat Hussain, Co-founder of Southerners on New Ground
This August, activists bailed out 51 Black women, queer and trans
folks across the South as part of the Black August Bail Out organized by
Southerners on New Ground (SONG). SONG is a Queer Liberation organization made
up of people of color, immigrants, undocumented people, people with
disabilities, working class and rural and small town lesbian, gay, bisexual,
transgender, queer (LGBTQ) people in the South. The Black August Bail Out is a
continuation of bail outs happening around the country that began with the
Mama’s Day Bail Out in May. Organizers found people to bail out in several ways,
such as using public records requests and allying with public defenders. They
met with women inside to ask their permission to bail them out and to find out
what their needs might be after being released. In addition to bail, donated funds
were used to provide short-term housing, healthcare, transportation, drug
treatment, mental health care and other support services to people the
activists bailed out. Continue reading “Black August Bail Out Honors Legacy of Resistance and Black Freedom Dreams”
by Suzy Subways
From PHN Issue 24, Spring 2015
Immigrants held in two federal Texas
facilities run by profit-driven private companies are refusing to tolerate
neglect of their health and unsafe conditions. Continue reading “Immigrants in Texas Want Health, Freedom”
By Laura McTighe
From PHN Issue 24, Spring 2015
We know that HIV and incarceration overlap. One
in seven people with HIV will pass through our prisons and jails this year. But
knowing that HIV and incarceration
overlap doesn’t tell us why.
Understanding why is critical if we are to end AIDS. Continue reading “Truly Understanding the Connection between HIV and Incarceration”
by Sergio Hyland
From PHN Issue 18, Fall 2013
I’m not one of those people who accept the notion that the existence of prisons is inevitable, because if I accept that, I’ll have to accept other associated notions as fact. Like the notion that the thousands of inhumane solitary confinement torture chambers across the nation have to exist. Because I’m on the inside and see the reality of these places, I definitely can’t accept the notion that prisons keep our communities safe! Continue reading “Open Letter to Activists on the Outside”