Statement on the Solidarity Caravan Calling for Mass Release of Incarcerated People in the Name of Public Health
Today, a coalition of organizations from across the Chicago area are leading noise demos at three strategic locations, demanding action from our elected officials—including Governor JB Pritzker, Chief Judge Timothy Evans, Sheriff Tom Dart, State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, and Midwest ICE Director Robert Guadian—to support the mass release of incarcerated people in the state of Illinois, helping to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.
While practicing social distancing and remaining in our cars, we are staging demonstrations at the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, ICE Headquarters in the Loop, and Cook County Jail—one of the largest epicenters of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the entire U.S.
While our elected officials point fingers at one another, avoiding responsibility for the health of the more than 45,000 people currently incarcerated or detained in Illinois, JTDC has had its first positive test result, two people have already died at Stateville, and just yesterday Jeffery Pendleton became the first person to die at Cook County.
The response to the dire threat of COVID-19 inside these facilities has been mass lockdowns and solitary confinement—what one person on the inside calls “double incarceration.” These measures punish those on the inside for a pandemic that is impossible for them to avoid, while doing nothing to provide testing, healthcare, or sanitary supplies that could actually stop its spread.
When we say #FreeThemAll we mean no one should be stuck on the inside waiting for an almost inevitable infection and possible death from COVID-19. We mean incarcerated people—be they youth or immigrants, be they near their release date or serving long term sentences—are a part of our communities, are experiencing this pandemic alongside those of us on the outside, and that our survival is dependent on their survival.
We demand public health responses to this crisis, not torture, and not the further entrentching of the racist, adultist, anti-immigrant prison system. Time is quickly running out before infections reach numbers where deaths can no longer be prevented. The ONLY appropriate and adequate response is a mass release of incarcerated people back to the communities that support them, and with the resources that can prevent them from dying.
If COVID-19 has taught us one thing, it is that crisis—though it may impact us inequitably—lays bare our deep interconnectedness. If one of us is denied treatment, all of us are at greater risk. If one of us is forced into conditions that make them more susceptible, all of us will bear the brunt of the ensuing strain on our healthcare systems.
None of us are safe until all of us are safe! None of us are free until all of us are free!
This event was organized by by: A Just Harvest, All of Us Or None Chicago, American Friends Service Committee, Assata’s Daughters, Believers Bail Out, Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, Chicago Community Bond Fund, Circles & Ciphers, Community Renewal Society, Equity and Transformation (EAT), Liberation Library, Love & Protect, Moms United Against Violence and Incarceration, Organized Communities Against Deportations (OCAD), The People’s Lobby, Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation (SOUL), South Side Workers Center, Trinity United Church of Christ – Chicago, Unitarian Universalist Prison Ministry of Illinois, Westside Justice Center, Women’s Justice Institute and Parole Illinois.