Join an online press conference on Monday, December 14 at 1pm to hear stories from people directly impacted by COVID surges in Washington’s Department of Correction (DOC) facilities. Families and advocates are calling on elected leaders and the broader community to take action on behalf of those in DOC custody. The surge of COVID-19 outbreaks at prisons and work release facilities across Washington state pose a grave threat to the health, safety, and well-being of the community at large and particularly incarcerated people. These outbreaks are not surprising given the DOC’s handling of the pandemic. While the DOC has stated that “every step taken is to ensure that those under our jurisdiction are safe and healthy,” this contrasts sharply with the direct accounts of incarcerated people and their loved ones.

WHAT:  Virtual Press Conference on COVID-19 Surges across Six DOC Facilities

WHEN:  Monday December 14, 2020, 1 pm

WHERE: Online via YouTube

WHO: Speakers and participants will include the following:

  • Survivors of the COVID-19 outbreak at Bishop Lewis Work Release Facility
  • Family members speaking out about their fears for their incarcerated loved ones as COVID surges
  • Nikkita Oliver, Attorney, Activist, Artist, Community Organizer
  • Aneelah Afzali, Executive Director, MAPS-AMEN (American Muslim Empowerment Network)
  • Nick Allen, Attorney and Deputy Director of Advocacy at Columbia Legal Services
  • John Marlow, Attorney
  • Cassandra Butler, activist & organizer
  • JM Wong, activist & organizer
  • State Senator Rebecca Saldana
  • State Senator Joe Nguyen
  • Seattle City Council Member Tammy Morales

Recent media articles here, here, and here have exposed the troubling nature of DOC’s response to the pandemic, including:

  • racial injustices and DOC using solitary confinement (a known form of torture) as a way to contain the spread of COVID-19,
  • DOC endangering successful re-entry and causing potential community spread of the virus,
  • families losing track of their loved ones in the system, and
  • dehumanizing conditions that incarcerated people face during the pandemic, including insufficient safety measures that put their lives in danger.

In addition, there are valid concerns about retaliation by DOC against individuals who speak out about DOC’s improper actions (or inactions).

Speakers will include people whose successful re-entry back into the community fell apart due to DOC not following public health guidelines at work release facilities. Recently at the Bishop Lewis work release site, over 75% of the men (37 of 49) contracted COVID-19 due to unsafe conditions. Families – particularly mothers – will speak up about how DOC endangered their loved ones and potentially their own health, as supported re-entry includes going home to loved ones. Community advocates and elected leaders will also address how the failure to adequately follow public health guidance and address overcrowding in DOC facilities during a pandemic endangers the safety and well-being of the entire community.

Families and incarcerated people are calling on a broad coalition of people – elected officials, faith leaders, organizers, artists, labor leaders, educators, public health professionals, housing advocates, philanthropists, and more – to take action to address COVID. These organizing efforts will be highlighted at the press conference and demands will be announced.

Ultimately, all of our liberation is connected. COVID does not distinguish between jurisdictional boundaries. We all breathe the same air. Incarcerated people and local organizers want to work with our elected leaders and public health officials to come together to find the right solutions to end the pandemic. A part of this problem-solving is increasing accountability, transparency, and safety for all, especially our siblings in DOC custody.

Media Contact

Charlie McAteer, CLS Communications