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.
Another kind of action is the movement of money and resources. The Inside/Outside Soap Brigade and Survived and Punished NY are helping organizations around the country send soap and other essential supplies to incarcerated people, and other mutual aid networks are mobilizing in similar ways. Hundreds of bail funds in the National Bail Fund Network have posted bail for people to get out of jail, with New York City’s Emergency Release Fund focusing specifically on transgender, gender nonconforming, or intersex folks.
An online map of COVID-19 cases behind bars created by activist journalists tracks confirmed cases as well as potential cases reported by people inside. The map is on the internet at COVID19BehindBars.com. The creators of this map are also planning to print and mail a newsletter for people in prison, with information on where COVID-19 outbreaks are happening in prisons, tips on protecting yourself from COVID-19, and hotlines to call if someone is sick in your facility. To request the newsletter, or to report possible cases of COVID-19 at your facility, write to Corcione Media LLC, P.O. Box 40062, Philadelphia, PA 19106.
People are taking important action from inside of prisons and immigrant detention centers, too. By mid-April, incarcerated people in at least eight states had begun hunger strikes to demand urgent action from the facilities where they’re held for cleaner conditions, better health care, and release. An estimated 3,000 incarcerated people across the country have participated in more than 75 protests, according to Perilous Chronicle, a digital media project. The majority of the hunger strikes have been in immigration detention centers, but inmates in Cook County Jail have also been refusing meals. Incarcerated people have also participated in protests, vigils, and actions held outside facilities’ doors by holding up signs to windows, making noise in concert with honking horns and shouting protesters outside, and recording phone messages about their experiences and stories that are played over speakers at mass actions.
Due to this pressure, people have been released from prisons, jails, and detention centers all over the country. As of mid-April, in at least 16 states, county jails have reduced their populations, some by as much as 30%.
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”
by Suzy Subways
From PHN Issue 18, Fall 2013
From Gandhi’s independence movement in India to women demanding the right to vote, from Cesar Chavez to Irish Republican Army political prisoners, oppressed people have used hunger strikes to show their deep commitment to freedom. This year, two major hunger strikes shook U.S. prisons. Continue reading “Fasting for Rights and Dignity: From Guantanamo Bay to California”
by Dan Berger
From PHN Issue 16, Spring 2013
We are at the beginning of a new movement against the prison. It works to shrink the prison system by using radical critique, direct action, and practical goals for reducing the reach of imprisonment. I would like to call this a strategy of decarceration. It is the demand to close prisons and reduce policing—but also to open schools and build communities. It is a strategy that takes advantage of political conditions without sacrificing its political vision. Continue reading “Decarceration: A New Strategy Against Prisons”