Covid raging in our prisons is a humanitarian crisis that needs to be addressed

22 Dec 2020 | 11:13

Editor’s note: The Courier received the following letter in response to the recent story “Pike jail neglects inmates’ urgent medical needs, relative says.” Also see the related story on page 6.

To the Editor:

I am writing to you to help make the public aware of Schuylkill County Jail (SCJ) putting the community of Pottsville, Pa., at risk for a catastrophic outbreak of COVID-19 outbreak. My fiancé, Robert Brode, is an inmate at SCJ, along with another inmate, Mark Lischak. Both are extremely vulnerable due to diabetes, kidney disorders and heart failure. They both asked to be isolated weeks ago to prevent them from being infected but both were denied. Last week Robert’s cellmate showed Covid symptoms. He was tested and placed back on a block in a cell with Robert. The block was put on lockdown with no heat due to a broken heating system not yet repaired, windows stuck wide open, no clean masks, no hand sanitizer, soap or disinfectants. Robert was told by medical staff employed through PrimeCare that blood sugars would not be taken anymore due to the infection! This is life-threatening to Robert as a diabetic and unheard of as I am in the medical profession and know the risks of giving diabetic medicine to patients without knowing their blood sugars! This should be reported to the state board of nursing!

Time passed, Robert and Mark are now Covid positive and suffering in their cells for days with zero medical intervention given! Unable to talk to their loved ones due to lockdown rules and a faulty and costly video visitation system, I feel I am their only hope for survival. The prison has told inmates they are short-staffed and can’t provide inmates with most of the basic necessities. Since only one inmate has been released since August, as far as the compassionate release stats are showing online, the jail remains overcrowded and understaffed! Police continue to ask for and serve warrants and expose themselves and others in order to execute new warrants for charges as simple as, in Robert’s case, three missing trail cameras on land near Robert Brode’s property?! He is now locked up even though nothing was found on his property. Instead the police chose to focus on Robert over a case that should not have gone this far. This is due to Robert living in New Ringgold and not being in the right group of citizens, “the good people around.” Instead Robert is stereotyped because of his hometown and people he associates with? We are experiencing a global pandemic and still law enforcement wants to be biased and choose who they don’t like because of their “friend groups”? This is insane and ridiculous.

Robert and Mark repeatedly asked to be tested day after day. They were told they don’t need to be tested! Why does SCJ not need to follow Gov. Tom Wolfe’s order? This jail isn’t following any guidelines to prevent or contain a Covid-19 outbreak! Three employees have already had Covid-19 and still no measures are taken to prevent the spread! So far only one inmate has been released a few months ago. The jail is unsanitary and overcrowded. Gov. Wolfe’s order to release all prisoners not posing a risk to the safety of the community is totally being ignored. Yes, Black Lives Matter and Prisoners’ Lives Matter. I’m begging you to make the public aware of what’s going on behind the prison walls. A COVID-19 outbreak in this jail will not only move fast, it will be potentially catastrophic for not only vulnerable inmates but also to our community! This is a humanitarian crisis and needs to be addressed. Brode and Lischak are veterans who seem to be forgotten. Please help me advocate and stop the spread of COVID-19 due to ignorance of the county officials.

Regardless of the CDC, World Health Organization, and Gov. Tom Wolfe’s specific guidance for prisons to follow, Schuylkill County Jail has decided to ignore the order and recommendations! The spread of COVID-19 is about to spread like wildfire through our community and inmates and citizens are going to die! “We all have a responsibility to try to stem the spread of Covid-19. Releasing individuals who do not pose a danger to the public can prevent them from being exposed in jail and will create a safer environment for those who remain there while helping protect our entire community during this pandemic” —Durham County (N.C.) District Attorney S.Deberry

Jill Stramara

New Ringgold, Pa.