Let my people go! A call to release all US prisoners in response to COVID-19

Open-the-Prison-Gates-art-by-Rashid-1116-1400x1867, Let my people go! A call to release all US prisoners in response to COVID-19, Abolition Now!
The dragon is angry, but the dragon is righteous. The dragon is the millions locked inside U.S. prisons, soon to be execution chambers thanks to COVID-19, whose strength and wisdom are desperately needed back home. But also, thanks to COVID-19, the people of the U.S., weighed down by the cost of mass incarceration in dollars and guilt, have an unprecedented opportunity for MASS DECARCERATION. – Art: Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, 264847, Pendleton Correctional Facility, G-20-2C, 4490 W. Reformatory Road, Pendleton, IN 46064

by Kevin ‘Rashid’ Johnson

U.S. officials have often criticized Iran’s prison conditions. As awful as the prison conditions in Iran may be, Amerika, the proclaimed bastion of freedom and democracy, is much worse. Shane Bauer, the Amerikan captured and imprisoned for two years in Iran, bore witness to this. 

In the November-December 2012 issue of Mother Jones magazine, he described the hardships of solitary confinement in Iranian prisons and found, upon entering U.S. prisons, that conditions of confinement in Iran paled in comparison to those routinely practiced in Amerika. 

Furthermore, in response to the coronavirus outbreak, Iran has released some 85,000 of its prisoners – over half of its prison population – including its high security and political prisoners. Yet Amerika refuses to release anyone but a handful of jail detainees in response to the pandemic. 

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There is no more justice in U.S. imprisonment than there was in chattel slavery. In fact, the 13th Amendment was passed after the Civil War as a compromise to Southern slaveholders . . .

We must demand greater action and the release of all U.S. prisoners, most of whom are unjustly confined anyway. 

The injustice of U.S. imprisonment

With nearly two and a half million people in prison in the U.S., and poor, oppressed and colonized people making up the disproportionate majority of them, almost every Black and Brown person in Amerika has a loved one or knows someone who is locked up. The impact of these mass incarceration practices targeted especially at Black and Brown communities, and almost exclusively at the poor, has been as disruptive of and destructive to our communities and families as the old chattel slave system that routinely sold loved ones off to distant slave owners, never to be seen or heard from again.

Because of the poverty and limited resources of these targeted groups, and the common practice of imprisoning people far away from their homes and communities, U.S. prisoners are as lost to their loved ones as were the antebellum slaves that were sold away.

There is no more justice in U.S. imprisonment than there was in chattel slavery. In fact, the 13th Amendment was passed after the Civil War as a compromise to Southern slaveholders, that substituted racially selected imprisonment, which subjected the imprisoned to state-controlled forced labor and social containment, for the old system of privately controlled forced labor and social containment. 

Almost everyone in prison in the U.S. was “convicted” of crimes through the admittedly corrupt plea bargain process, through which they are coerced to plead guilty, often for crimes that they were innocent of or were overly charged for, because they couldn’t afford to hire lawyers who’d mount any real defenses for them. 

For over 95 percent of Amerika’s imprisoned, there were no trials before any of juries of their peers as the U.S. Constitution falsely promises, and, coming from marginalized social groups that the establishment cares nothing about, prisoners’ health needs mean nothing to prison officials, which is why COVID-19 presents an especial danger to prisoners. 

U.S. prisons are a viral hothouse

In the institutionalized prison setting, where large numbers of people are forcibly confined in close proximity to each other, a virus like COVID-19 would spread like bacteria in a petri dish. Not to mention that officials would let it spread and go untreated as they have with other deadly viruses like Hepatitis-C. 

Not only do officials care nothing for prisoners’ health needs, but prison medical staff, who are known to be among the lowest quality, are so undertrained and underqualified to provide needed care, they often cannot find work anywhere else. Many are actually forbidden, because of professional misconduct, from working anywhere but in prisons. 

One of many examples was Dr. Michael Mitcheff, who worked as chief medical officer for the entire Indiana Prison System, where I’ve been imprisoned since November of 2018. As a private doctor, Mitcheff had his medical license revoked for repeatedly writing and filling false prescriptions in others’ names to feed his own hydrocodone addiction. 

His license was reinstated on a probationary basis in 1999, with the medical board stating, “He may only work in the Indiana Prison System.” (See “Turnover, Conditions Plague Doctor Hiring Efforts” by Virginia Black, South Bend Tribune, June 13, 2016.) 

Mitcheff, the Indiana Prison System, and its medical contractor, Corizon were subsequently subject to a wave of lawsuits for malpractice and withholding needed medical care from prisoners. As a result, Corizon’s contract was terminated in 2016.

Under existing circumstances, COVID-19 would become a pandemic of the worst sort inside U.S. prisons, which only compounds the injustice and inhumanity inherent in the Amerikan so-called criminal justice process. If Iran can release over half of its prisoners, Amerika can certainly release all of its own. 

Let us put forward the demand to let all our people go!

Dare to Struggle! 

Dare to Win!

All Power to the People!

Send our brother some love and light: Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, 264847, Pendleton Correctional Facility, G-20-2C, 4490 W. Reformatory Road, Pendleton, IN 46064.