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Someone at Rikers gave my cell # to others & for a couple of days I’ve been getting calls from people whose loved ones are there. They’ve all said some variation of the same thing — the people there need us to hear what is happening to them. They have asked me to share. THREAD/
The accounts are all very similar. People are sleeping in dorms of 40-50 people, less than 2 feet apart. At the center, they try to sleep head to toe. 2/
In one facility the word “shit” is spelled out on the wall in big letters — written in actual feces. It has been there for days and was mentioned by several callers. 3/
No cleaning is being done. The staff have plainly said that they too are afraid of catching the virus and don’t want to touch anything. When people ask for disinfectants to clean communal toilets, phones and other spaces themselves, they are denied. 4/
There are no medical appointments available. The clinics are full. People who ask for care are denied. Others who have serious conditions are avoiding asking for care out of fear of catching the virus in the clinic, on the off-chance they could be seen at all. 5/
No soap is available. It may have been stolen or hoarded from communal bathrooms, but it has not been replaced. They can’t wash their hands and they are not given sanitizer. 6/
People are sick. Guards and staff are coughing. People who are incarcerated are developing coughs and fevers. There are no masks. They are hearing about the virus through the news and know what is happening to them. They are really afraid. 7/
More of what has been described to us at Brooklyn Defender Services is here: 8/
It is humbling and horrible to know that people living in these conditions are giving the number of someone they don’t know to their mom, their friend, their partner, in the hope that someone — anyone — can help them. 9/
The truth is that I can’t do much other than tell their story because they asked me to. But we can ALL call on the people in power to do more to free people from these conditions before they die. I’m looking at you @NYGovCuomo and @NYCMayor. 10/
In this unprecedented moment, @NYGovCuomo intends to push back bail reform that was democratically enacted last year & went into effect Jan 1. If not for reform, thousands more would have been exposed to these horrific and deadly conditions. He wants to go back. #NoRollbacks 11/
Yesterday, on the heels of a @LegalAidNYC win for vulnerable people on parole, Gov. Cuomo announced the release of ppl in jail for technical parole violations. His parole board could also consent to releasing people on parole w open cases — in which they are presumed innocent 12/
@NYCMayor also has the power to free anyone serving <1 year sentence — anyone serving a sentence in city jails — for a “compelling reason consistent with the public interest.” But he has moved at a snail’s pace, & made some req’s being >70 & having 5 preexisting conditions. 13/
@NYCMayor, as head of the NYPD, has also failed to call for an end to broken windows policing & a halt on the execution of old arrest warrants, neither of which improve public safety & both of which put people at risk of death by incarceration (or interaction w/ a COVID+ cop) 14/
Also at play here are the DAs (ELECTED!) & their ADAs who should be consenting to release but are actively asking for people to be sent to or kept at Rikers, and members of the judiciary who are not using their power to free people in this moment. 15/
There are ~3200 people at Rikers. There are only a few reasons to be there: they’re jailed pre-trial & presumed innocent, awaiting a decision on a prob or parole vio, or serving a misdemeanor or low-level sentence of <1 year. None have been sentenced to death by suffocation. 16/
NYC is the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the US, and Rikers is the epicenter of this epicenter with a REPORTED infection rate of 7x the free population. Knowing what we know about medical care on Rikers, it is surely higher. 17/
Our pro-carceral nation has long put people away in dangerous places where they can’t be seen or heard & pretended that they don’t exist. I’m begging you to use this moment, which is shattering so many of our norms, to demand humanity for them. Please help our neighbors. /END
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