“23+ hour lockdown must end immediately. Release to the public an updated plan to restore educational programming, visitation and socially distanced recreation time within state and federal prisons as the COVID-19 outbreak continues including use of already available video visitation technology.”
On Saturday, a little after 3pm, a caravan of about two dozen automobiles drove past the various facilities of the Adult Correctional Institutions (ACI) of Cranston “to show solidarity with incarcerated Rhode Islanders being held in confinement.”
The cars drove from prison facility to prison facility, honking horns and waving signs. At Maximum Security some protesters left their automobiles and unfurled banners that said “”23+ Hour Lockdown is Torture” and, borrowing Governor Gina Raimondo‘s catchphrase, “Knock it Off.”
In a statement, the protesters wrote that, “While the rest of Rhode Islanders are seeing loosened restrictions and the end of the a stay-at-home order, people being held at the ACI are still experiencing conditions tantamount to torture. They are locked in their cells for up to 23 hours a day with limited access to communication with their loved ones, the outdoors, or sufficient space for social distancing. As Correctional Officers and prison staff come in and out of the building each day, incarcerated people risk further exposure as Rhode Island continues the reopening process.”
The Noise Demonstration at the ACI focused on the following demands:
- 23+ hour lockdown must end immediately. Release to the public an updated plan to restore educational programming, visitation and socially distanced recreation time within state and federal prisons as the COVID-19 outbreak continues including use of already available video visitation technology.
- Decarcerate the prison population. Target budgetary savings through decreased prison population, utilizing parole and early release, as well as broad criminal justice reforms that result in fewer Rhode Islanders sentenced to jail time. Including immediate implementation of geriatric parole for those over the age of 50.
- End price gouging for commissary goods and provide a $3/day stipend for prisoners who are no longer able to work due to COVID-19 restrictions, comparable with the unemployment checks provided to Rhode Islanders who lost work with COVID-19 shutdowns.
- Increase testing across the population, including asymptomatic prisoners, and continue to report results daily to the public.
- Provide soap, undiluted CDC-recommended hand sanitizer, medical care, comprehensive sanitation and cleaning of facilities and other safety measures free of charge as recommended by the CDC for those who remain incarcerated.
In response, JR Ventura, Public Relations Officer at the Rhode Island Department of Corrections released the following statement: “RIDOC has no higher priority than the safety of those who work and live here. When it comes to addressing the COVID-19 crisis, not only are everyone’s constitutional rights respected, but RIDOC’s positive results speak for themselves. As of today, our positive test count stands at 14 staff members and four sentenced inmates, making us one of the safest correctional institutions in the country. That is a fact that every Rhode Islander can be proud of. We will continue to provide daily updates on Facebook to keep the public informed of our efforts. Our safety planning and proactive approach thus far have yielded positive results, and we will continue to work hard to keep people safe.”
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Groups supporting and/or participating in the action include Alliance to Mobilize Our Resistance (AMOR), Sunrise Providence, Formerly Incarcerated Union of Rhode Island, Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE), Providence Democratic Socialists of America, Protect Families First, Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere, Black & Pink Providence, SUGSE (Brown Grad Worker Union) Organizing Committee, Project LETS, Rhode Island and South Coast Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), VICTA, Young Democrats of Rhode Island, The Womxn Project, Facilitate Change LLC, Substance Use Policy Education and Recovery PAC, First Unitarian Church of Providence, Coyote RI, Rhode Island Medical Navigator Partnership, RI Working Families Party, Cranston Action Network, Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church-Providence, Parents Leading for Education Equity, Providence Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee Providence (IWOC), Showing Up for Racial Justice RI (SURJ-RI), Independent Socialist Group, Fortnight Wine Bar and Railroad.