Read more about the #DefundHate Campaign here
ACTION APRIL: COVID-19 Response
#FreeThemAll - release immigrant detainees, state prisoners, county jail inmates
For Immediate Release: April 24, 2020
Press Contact: Lynn Tramonte, email@example.com / 202-255-0551
Columbus, OH – Governor DeWine and Health Department Director Dr. Amy Acton failed to include Ohio prisons and jails in their COVID-19 harm reduction plan. Now, inmates, staff members, and their loved ones are paying the price. Just last night, we learned that an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainee at the Morrow County Jail had finally been tested for COVID-19. His results came back positive, days after he first began to show symptoms. This is a jail that had no free soap until very recently, and has continued to accept transfers from other counties and facilitate deportations, spreading the virus in Ohio and beyond.
“Steps could have been taken to reduce the risk of exposure at Morrow County Jail, but they were not,” said Lynn Tramonte, Director of Ohio Immigrant Alliance. “This is a failure of leadership at the federal, state, and county levels. Now, all people detained at the Morrow County Jail must be tested for COVID-19, today. Everyone has been exposed. We also demand that Sheriff Hinton and ICE release as many people as possible, immediately, so that they can safely quarantine at home with their families. No one deserves to be a sitting duck for a deadly virus.”
Today, Ohioans are taking action into our own hands and demanding release of our friends and loved ones. Ohio Prisoners Justice League and Ohio Organizing Collaborative have organized a COVID-safe car rally in Columbus, demanding the release of 20,000 people from our state’s over-capacity jails and prisons in May. Watch the “20k in May” rally unfold on Twitter @OHPrisonJustice and Instagram @OhioPrisonJusticeLeague #BreakTheGates. This is part of a national day of action under #FreeAndAlive, with events also in Alabama, California, Colorado, and Texas.
The “20k in May” rally comes after weeks of warnings from doctors about the need to depopulate, and weeks of state leadership continuing to ignore and soft-pedal these concerns. Now, 80% of inmates at Marion Correctional Institution have tested positive for COVID-19, making it the largest hotspot in the United States. Twenty-two out of 28 state prisons are under quarantine. Over 4,000 inmates and staff in state corrections institutions have tested positive for COVID-19, with 15 fatalities, plus another 100 at the Elkton Federal Prison, where at least six people have died. These figures do not even include the county jails and ICE detainees, who are being held on civil, not criminal, charges.
“These Ohioans in jail were not sentenced to death; many are near the end of their sentences and could simply go home to their families a little sooner, given the public health crisis. Hundreds are being held on civil immigration charges alone. DeWine and Acton ignored the doctors and experts warning them that decarceration was needed, failing to institute measures at state-run facilities and provide any direction to the counties, much less use their emergency powers. Their lack of leadership is leaving incarcerated people to die, and their family members feeling helpless,” said Tramonte. “These folks are Ohioans too.”
Criminal justice and immigration experts have laid out safe, common sense ways to decarcerate, starting with people at highest risk of death by the virus; civil immigration detainees; individuals who had completed a substantial proportion of their sentence; people only in jail because they could not afford bail; and others. Read some of their recommendations below.
- Steps to Immediately Reduce Ohio’s Incarcerated Population (ACLU of Ohio, Policy Matters Ohio, Ohio Organizing Collaborative, and Ohio Transformation Fund)
- Alternatives to Immigration Detention (ACLU)
- Steps to Take to Support Immigrants During COVID-19 (Ohio Immigrant Alliance, 60 organizational partners, and 374 Ohioans)
- Five Ways the Criminal Justice System Could Slow the Pandemic (Prison Policy Initiative)
Follow the Ohio Immigrant Alliance on Twitter @tramontela
Ohioans are making their voices heard—a prison or detention sentence should NEVER mean a death sentence! Throughout April, Ohioans will be demanding that detainees in immigration and civil detention have their basic human rights upheld and respected.
What are the two most important things for the prevention and containment of Covid-19? Physical distancing and sanitation. Therefore, one of the most dangerous places for someone to be during this pandemic is in prison, where you are closely confined and tightly packed with dozens of other detainees. On top of that, people in detention are forced to PAY for their basic hygiene products such as toothpaste and soap.
If you believe that the state of Ohio should be held responsible for the safety and health of the most vulnerable among us, please stand with us (virtually) and help us reach out to our state leadership.
Don’t know what to say? We have you covered! Thanks to a great deal of effort by the Coalition to Stop the Inhumanity at the Cuyahoga County Jail, Ohio Immigrant Alliance & Ohio-based organizers fighting mass incarceration, white supremacy, and class struggle, we are happy to share with you the “ACTION APRIL” toolkit! This resource was made with Ohioans in mind, so you don’t have to do any of the googling (if you are not based in Ohio, visit the bottom of this email for resources). Here you will find tons of information about the actions we will be taking throughout April as well as sample social media posts, information for our state leadership, and much, much more. (See links to all the toolkits below) .
SAMPLE PHONE SCRIPT
“Hi. My name is [insert your name] and I am a constituent of [insert your location of residence]. It’s important to me that my representative fight for the wellbeing of all people in my community, especially as you consider how to spend taxpayer dollars. As you consider emergency funding to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, I urge you to prioritize the people most impacted by the virus and the healthcare professionals responding to the crisis - not ICE, whose proven time and again to be incapable of meeting the health needs of people in its custody. In the face of this severe public health crisis, Congress must use the opportunity presented by these stimulus packages to instead direct ICE to let people go. Every day that immigrants remain detained poses a serious threat to their safety. Can I count on Rep./Sen. [x] to fight for the health and freedom of all immigrants?”
SAMPLE EMAIL SCRIPT
My name is [insert your name] and I am a constituent of [insert your location of residence]. It’s important to me that my representative fight for the wellbeing of all people in my community. Any emergency funding you consider to address the COVID-19 pandemic should prioritize the people most impacted by the virus and the healthcare professionals responding to the crisis - not ICE, whose proven time and again to be incapable of meeting the health needs of people in its custody. In the face of this severe public health crisis, Congress must use the opportunity presented by these stimulus packages to instead direct ICE to let people go. Every day that immigrants remain detained poses a serious threat to their safety. I strongly urge Rep./Sen. [x] to fight for the health and freedom of all immigrants by Defunding Hate and calling for their release from detention.
SCHEDULE OF ACTIONS
April 3 — Twitter Storm
April 6 — Call Your Governor/ Department of Health
April 6-9 — Text A Friend Outreach
April 13 — Call Your County Sheriff
April 15 — Facebook Friend Outreach
April 16 — Call Your Governor again
April 20 - repeat the Twitterstorm
April 21 - Call Your Governor/ Department of Health
April 22 - Text A Friend Outreach
April 23 - Call Your County Sheriff
April 24-26 - Facebook Friend Outreach
April 27 - repeat the Twitterstorm
April 28 - Call the Governor
April 29 - Call your county sheriff
April 30 -
For people outside Ohio: feel free to use the following tools for your own action:
- Detention Watch Network’s Twitterstorm Toolkit (join us for the April 3rd twitterstorm!)
- Join the online #FreeThemAll Solidarity Day panel
- Get ahold of your representative and tell them to #FreeThemAll
- Stay active and in-the-know from where you are with this #FreeThemAll Action Toolkit
Social Media Action: #FreeThemAll Take Action Challenge
Amplify the demand to release all people in immigration detention on social media by completing the #FreeThemAll Take Action Challenge throughout the week! How to participate:
Take a photo of yourself holding up a sign that says, “#FreeThemAll from immigration detention” AND/OR a video of yourself participating and completing our calls to action for that particular day
Include the following post text with your photo or video:
#ChallengeAccepted I just called on my [insert elected official target for that particular day] to release all people from immigration detention. No one is safe in ICE custody. We need to #FreeThemAll now! I challenge you to take action today.
Tag 5 friends and Detention Watch Network (@detentionwatch)
Links to toolkits
#FreeThemAll / Defund Hate - from Detention Watch Network - sample tweets