It is time to empty the prisons

Pennsylvania-State-Corrections-Officers-Association-Save-Our-Families-poster, It is time to empty the prisons, Abolition Now!

by Noelle Hanrahan, Prison Radio

I have never agreed with the Pennsylvania State Correctional Officers Association before, but now, on this issue, I bet we can all agree:

It is time to empty the prisons.

The stakes could not be higher. It is life or death.

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All of our lives are at stake: guards, prisoners, and our loved ones both inside and outside.

We share a lot more than is often acknowledged. Guards are working class people, mostly from poor communities. They, too, spend their daily lives inside prisons, and they too suffer daily degradation and moral injury from their sustained contact with the carceral state.

Separation is an illusion. Now, today, during this burgeoning pandemic, our shared humanity is apparent.

Earlier this week, an investigator with the New York Department of Corrections died after testing positive for COVID-19.

If we want to protect the entire country from this disease, we must empty the prisons.

Employees of state and federal prisons and jails in Indiana, Pennsylvania, Michigan, New York, California, New Hampshire, Georgia, New Jersey and Alabama have also contracted the virus.

We are not two separate communities, “inside” and “outside” the prison. We are all one community, in one ecosystem. When a virus enters the prison, it spreads among prisoners and employees alike.

In this moment of crisis, the prisons will act as an incubator for COVID-19. If we want to protect the entire country from this disease, we must empty the prisons.

Warehousing of people in overcrowded jails and prisons must end immediately. Advocates have been leading this work. Simply, many hundreds of thousands should not even be in jail or prison. Now is the time for us all to take action!

Advocacy works. More must and can be done. Every day that passes in an overcrowded prison heightens the risk and increases the casualties of COVID-19.

All over the country, folks are demanding that jails be emptied.

Open the prison gates and bring people home.

When We Fight, We Win!

Noelle Hanrahan, P.I.

Noelle Hanrahan is a private investigator, director of Prison Radio and producer and co-writer of the feature length documentary “Mumia: Long Distance Revolutionary” (2013). She can be reached at