Outside organizers start a hotline to support incarcerated people through the COVID-19 outbreak

In an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Mark Garrett cleans a holding cell on March 13 at the Vanderburgh County Jail in Evansville, Indiana, where he is housed. Sheriffs around the country have released thousands of prisoners, and state prison authorities are investigating that option. – Photo: Mike Lawrence, Courier & Press via USA Today Network

We encourage incarcerated people and family members to call 510-301-9403 or email prisonsareunhealthy@protonmail.com with any urgent information regarding the status of COVID-19 inside prisons, jails, detention and so-called medical facilities.

As you are probably well aware, the world is changing rapidly outside due to the COVID-19 pandemic. People’s day-to-day realities have changed dramatically as routines of work, school, childcare, recreation and simple things like shopping for groceries are disrupted or eliminated entirely, leaving us in a new moment none of us can fully comprehend or predict.

We are told to stay indoors and “socially distance” ourselves from each other. In many places there are official orders to “shelter in place” and people feel anxious – not just about getting sick, but also about how to afford and access basic supplies and pay the rent after being laid off or having hours cut.

But alongside the anxiety, we also see possibilities opening up in the cracks of the status quo. We are witnessing a rapid and fierce coming together of friends and neighbors committed to taking care of each other through this crisis. People are coordinating distribution of material resources and providing emotional support within their communities, finding ways to remain socially connected while being physically distant.

As the COVID-19 outbreak intensifies and more and more people are put at risk, outside organizers in the San Francisco Bay Area have started a hotline for our incarcerated siblings and comrades to reach across the walls and razor wire. We haven’t forgotten about you and won’t stop advocating for you.

We encourage incarcerated people and family members to call 510-301-9403 or email prisonsareunhealthy@protonmail.com with any urgent information regarding the status of COVID-19 inside prisons, jails, detention and so-called medical facilities.

We recognize that policing and incarceration are always already public health hazards, and that the risks of overcrowding, poor sanitation, and lack of medical services, coupled with the state’s typical repressive response instituting lockdowns and cutting visitations, are only compounded and amplified by COVID-19. We recognize that all of our health and wellbeing depends on the health and wellbeing of our most adversely impacted community members. We are all in this together and we stand with you.

While we are not lawyers or doctors, we hope that the hotline can provide a resource to compile the information necessary to advocate for immediate medical services, decarceration as a public health necessity, and the legal paper trail to document and confront state negligence and human rights abuses. We look forward to hearing from you and collectively building more just and liberated worlds.

Parts of this statement were copied and adapted from Blue Ridge Anarchist Black Cross’s “Staying Healthy, Staying Connected: COVID-19 Information for Prisoners“ guide.