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Demands Letter
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Governor Wolf:

We demand that you take urgent action to minimize the spread of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania prisons and prevent the unnecessary deaths of potentially thousands of people. Until the below demands are met, members of the Free People Strike will hunger strike.

These demands are adapted from the March 18th and April 22nd letters written by ACLU-PA, Amistad Law Project, and the Abolitionist Law Center,[1] as well as ACT UP Philly’s May 6th demands,[2] Inside Justice’s May 5th demand,[3] and the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition's December 19, 2016 demand.[4]

This hunger strike is supported by 215 People’s Alliance, ACT UP Philly, Coalition to Abolish Death by Incarceration, the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia, Hearts on a Wire, Human Rights Coalition, Juntos, LifeLines Project, Live Free, The Mann Up Association, Movement Alliance Project, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (Philadelphia), National Lawyers Guild (Penn Chapter), Party for Socialism and Liberation (Philadelphia), Philadelphia Teachers Union (Racial Justice Organizing Committee), Philly Anarchist Black Cross, Physicians for Criminal Justice Reform, Poor People’s Campaign, Put People First! PA, Reawakening Agency, Reclaim Philadelphia, Shut Down Berks Coalition, Silicon Valley De-Bug, Solidarity Food Not Bombs, VOCAL SP2, the West Philly Participatory Defense Hub, and the Youth Arts & Self-Empowerment Project.

Demand 1: Accelerate the release of the 1,800 individuals eligible under the reprieve order signed April 10, 2020 so that all eligible individuals are released by the end of June, 2020.[5]

Demand 2: Expand the reprieve order by:

Demand 3: Stem the tide of admissions to state prisons by expanding the order of reprieve to suspend sentences for new technical violations of parole or probation.

Demand 4: Sign applications for commutation.

Demand 5: Ensure that individuals released from custody have access to safe housing, food, and medical care.

Demand 6: The Governor and Secretary of Corrections must implement measures to ensure prevention, access to testing, and appropriate medical care for those who remain incarcerated.

Demand 7: Issue an Emergency Removal Order (ERO) on the Berks County Residential Center and release all families to either relatives or a sponsor. BCRC has been operating without a license since 2016, when the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services revoked it.[16] As summarized by Pennsylvania Immigration & Citizenship Coalition,[17] BCRC violates federal and state law because:


[1] ACLU of Pennsylvania. March 18th Letter to Governor Wolf. https://www.aclupa.org/sites/default/files/ltr_governor_wolf_-_immediate_action_required_for_covid-19_final3.pdf; Ibid. April 22nd Letter to Governor Wolf. https://aclupa.org/sites/default/files/wysiwyg/letter_gov_wolf_reprieve_next_steps_2020-04-22.pdf.

[2] ACT UP Philly. “An Open Letter to Brian Abernathy, Managing Director of the City of Philadelphia.” https://medium.com/@actupphilly/an-open-letter-to-brian-abernathy-managing-director-of-the-city-of-philadelphia-303bef6c88ea, accessed May 20, 2020.

[3] Inside Justice. “In the Belly: An Abolitionist Journal, Volume 1.” https://abolitioniststudy.files.wordpress.com/2020/05/itb_vol1_final_online_read.pdf; accessed May 23, 2020

[4] Pennsylvania Immigration & Citizenship Coalition. “Campaign to Shut Down Berks.” https://paimmigrant.org/campaign-to-shut-down-berks/; accessed May 20, 2020.

[5]Order of the Pennsylvania Office of the Governor, at https://www.governor.pa.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/20200410-GOV-DOC-reprieve-release-order-COVID-19.pdf

[6] DOC Population as of April 9, 2020

[7] The Center for Justice at Columbia University. “Aging in Prison: Reducing Elder Incarceration and Promoting Safety at IX (2015),” https://www.issuelab.org/resources/22902/22902.pdf; Pew Center on the States, State of Recidivism. “The Revolving Door of America’s Prisons.” (2011). Nationwide, 43.3% of all released individuals recidivate within three years, while only 7% of those aged 50-64 and only 4% of those over 65 return to prison for new convictions.

[8] Aaron Moselle. “PA Prison System mulls releasing hundreds to prevent coronavirus spread.” https://whyy.org/articles/pa-prison-system-mulls-releasing-hundreds-to-prevent-coronavirus-spread/. April 1, 2020.

[9] Current incarceration rate of parole violations can be calculated by: Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Bureau of Planning, Research and Statistics. “Monthly Institutional Profile.” pgs. 1, 3. https://www.cor.pa.gov/About%20Us/Statistics/Documents/Current%20Monthly%20Profile.pdf

[10] Council of State Governments Justice Center. “Confined and Costly: How Supervision Violations Are Filling Prisons and Burdening Budgets.” June 2019. https://csgjusticecenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/confined-and-costly.pdf.

[11] Pennsylvania Board of Pardons. “Lifers Granted Public Hearings.” https://www.bop.pa.gov/Statistics/Pages/Lifers-Granted-Public-Hearings.aspx

[12] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Correction and Detention Facilities: Plan, Prepare, and Respond.” https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/correction-detention/index.html; accessed May 11, 2020.

[13] Inside Justice. “In the Belly: An Abolitionist Journal, Volume 1.” https://abolitioniststudy.files.wordpress.com/2020/05/itb_vol1_final_online_read.pdf; accessed May 23, 2020

[14] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Evaluating and Testing Persons for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).” https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/hcp/clinical-criteria.html; accessed May 20, 2020.

[15] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines.” https://covid19treatmentguidelines.nih.gov/whats-new/; accessed May 12, 2020.

[16] WSKG. Despite Losing Its State Child Care License, An Immigrant Family Detention Center In PA Made Room For More Families.”

https://wskg.org/news/despite-losing-its-state-child-care-license-and-years-of-claims-of-abuses-an-immigrant-family-detention-center-in-pennsylvania-made-room-for-more-families/; accessed May 20, 2020.

[17] Pennsylvania Immigration & Citizenship Coalition. “Campaign to Shut Down Berks.” https://paimmigrant.org/campaign-to-shut-down-berks/; accessed May 20, 2020.