Pandemic & Prison

The coronavirus pandemic poses particular risk to people incarcerated in jails, prisons, and detention centers. This page will gather some of the resources relevant to and generated by incarcerated people in Washington. For more on where the different prison facilities are located, consult this map.

Testimonials from Inside
We will be posting a series of testimonials from incarcerated people in Washington about the coronavirus pandemic.
* Washington State Reformatory (posted March 31, 2020): “Look, all jokes aside. I’m scared shitless in here. I find myself trying to make jokes about the situation to help cope with my own fear and anxiety. How’s it working? It’s tough being so isolated in here worried sick about my loved ones. Thoughts of my aging parents, my kids missing school, and my boujee sister probably out there protesting on my behalf somewhere. I watch the news all day and selfishly wish I could be watching an NBA game to take my mind off all things Corona but even that has been canceled.” Read the full letter here.
* Larch Corrections Center–three letters (received March 26 & posted on March 31, 2020): “My personal experience has been a stressful one. I am confined to a day room, when I was in a room already away from most everyone. And I feel like people here are afraid of me when I do get a chance to go out and do the things I need to do, and having all these random people come to the window and looking in at us like were caged animals at the zoo.” Read the full letters here.
* Stafford Creek Corrections Center (posted March 31, 2020): “Currently DOC has implemented protocals of social distancing and other measures that include no visitations until this pandemic is all over. These new protocols and restrictions have left things unclear and is creating an atmosphere of uncertainty, Which many of the folks incarcerated can only wait in isolation and worry helplessly while our loved ones are struggling and in fear of their own lives and future.” Read the full letter here.
* Larch Corrections Center (posted March 30, 2020): “I write this as a plea. I too have loved ones who are being impacted by this virus. I too have concerns for the lives of my elderly family members, as well as, for the lives of these older men whom I have built friendships with that are being repeatedly put at risk through sheer negligence when they have the right to safety.” Read the full letter here.
* Concerned Lifers Organization statement on COVID 19: “The Concerned Lifers Organization’s Legislative Committee urges advocates to push for a specific legislative fix to COVID-19’s threat to prisoners: Restore earned release time (ERT) to one-third on all convictions without exclusions for mandatory minimum terms, sentence enhancements, or other provisions that prevent good time on any portion of a sentence.” Read the full proposal here.

Letters to Washington Officials
* Civil rights & legal advocacy groups joint letters to the WA Department of Corrections and to Governor Jay Inslee (March 16, 2020)
* COVID19 Mutual Aid Seattle, “An Open Letter to Governor Jay Inslee”

Published Articles
* Christopher Blackwell and Arthur Longworth, “Here’s what happened to two prisoners when a guard got the coronavirus.” Buzzfeed News
* Tomas Keen, “In prison, ‘protective quarantine’ is just another word for lockdown.” The Crime Report
* Dan Berger, “In a pandemic, prisons are a problem” UW Center for Human Rights
* Prison Policy Initiative, “The public health case for criminal justice Reform

Organizational resources on public health & decarceration in Washington (a partial list):
COVID19 Mutual Aid-Seattle (and on Instagram here)
Columbia Legal Services
La Resistencia
Northwest Immigrant Rights Project

National resources on public health & decarceration:
The Appeal
Covid19 Behind Bars map
Justice Collaborative
Prison Health News
Prison Policy Initiative
Release Aging People in Prison

Updates from the University of Washington Bothell's Project on Mass Incarceration in Washington State