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COVID-19 Advocacy Letter

A PEP alumnus recently wrote to Missouri CURE to highlight the unsafe conditions that leave those in the Transitional Housing Unit at Farmington Correctional Center vulnerable to COVID-19. We have adapted his letter as a template, which we encourage you to send to policymakers and officials. The letter advocates for (1) clemency, compassionate release, medical and geriatric parole, or medical furloughs for those most vulnerable to COVID-19 and (2) implementation and adherence to all guidelines recommended by the CDC and other health experts to slow the spread of COVID-19. You can read the letter and download the template below.

Download COVID-19 Advocacy Letter Template

Dear [Decision Maker],

I am writing [as your constituent, as a concerned Missouri citizen, as a (your professional title)] to bring your attention to the dangerous and potentially deadly conditions at the 25 House Housing Unit in the Farmington Correctional Center which houses the MOSOP program. The Missouri Department of Corrections reports two positive COVID-19 tests among Farmington Correctional Center staff members, and yet the necessary steps to protect the most vulnerable incarcerated in the Transitional Housing Unit have not been taken.

Currently, people are housed sixty per wing in this unit and bunked within three feet (or closer) of each other. They lack adequate facilities to protect against the virus’s spread; a shared 3 sinks, 5 showers, and 3 toilets and urinals all become potential COVID-19 vectors. They still use the same canteen, chow hall, and medical facilities shared among everyone incarcerated in the Farmington Correctional Center, expanding the risk of spread among the entire population. Worst of all, there has been no testing available at the Correctional Center, meaning there is no way to determine the true level of danger facing these people.

Many of the individuals in the Housing Unit are elderly and not only experience the complications and ailments that many people face as they get older, but are exposed to specific detrimental health determinants because of their environment, making them uniquely vulnerable to COVID-19. These individuals were not sentenced to death. We must not allow inaction and deliberate oversight to serve as a death sentence.

Based on the danger facing this population and what we know is effective in minimizing COVID’s harm, I am writing to demand that Farmington Correctional Center and State Leaders take action to save vulnerable lives and immediately:

  1. Extend and expedite any legal authority available to grant clemency, compassionate release, medical and geriatric parole, or medical furloughs for those most vulnerable to the deadly spread of COVID-19, including:
    • Incarcerated citizens who are classified as elderly (55+).
    • Those who are immunocompromised, seriously ill, or with pre-existing and/or chronic medical conditions.
  1. Implement and adhere to all guidelines recommended by the CDC and other health experts to slow the spread of COVID-19, including:
    • Implement COVID-19 testing of all incarcerated people and staff members immediately.
    • Provide adequate supplies of soap, hand sanitizer, and cleaning supplies to everyone in the prison and ensure that washable surfaces are disinfected.
    • Use the opportunity of a reduced population following the release of vulnerable individuals to implement proper social distancing practices for incarcerated people.
    • Require staff members to wear face coverings at all times.

This is not the first call for policymakers to be on the side of justice; coalitions of medical professionals, civic and religious leaders, academics and legal professionals have already called on policymakers and the Missouri Supreme Court to be leaders in saving vulnerable lives in this time of pandemic. Taking the necessary steps is not a difficult decision to make—the recidivism rate for older and medically vulnerable inmates once they have been released from prison is practically non-existent.

If policymakers do not respond to this crisis more and more people will face conditions made more dangerous, inhumane, and potentially deadly because of the unchecked spread of the virus, and the tax-payer will face an unprecedented cost-burden in jurisdictions supporting the medical costs of these individuals. As of June 15, 2020, the DOC reports a total of 50 positive cases of COVID-19 and tragically one death among incarcerated individuals, as well as 37 total cases among staff. These numbers, and the risk they indicate, come in the larger state context of 15,810 confirmed cases and 879 deaths. It is time for Missouri to be a leader in the action necessary to combat the spread of COVID-19 to protect the health and safety of all incarcerated people, corrections workers, nurses, and all those involved in Missouri’s justice system.

The safety and wellbeing of all of Missouri’s citizens cannot wait.

Very Sincerely,

[Your Name][Your Address][City, State, Zip]

Where to Direct Your Letter

Send to MO Department of Corrections Officials:

  • Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice George W. Draper III; Dear Chief Justice Draper,
    • Mail: Judge George W. Draper III
      Supreme Court of Missouri
      Post Office Box 150
      Jefferson City, MO   65102
    • Email: to Clerk Betsy AuBuchon (betsy.aubuchon@courts.mo.gov)

 

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