To the Editor:
Last week, two people who were being held at Pike County Correctional Facility died from COVID-19. Earlier this week, a man held in the state prison system died.
I have seen a troubling tendency to point fingers and blame others during this pandemic, particularly people from other states, of different ethnic and racial backgrounds. Many also forget the most marginalized and vulnerable people in our society. For some, people in jails and prisons are a distant thought, walled off, literally and figuratively from thought. For others, with less access to wealth and resources, perhaps mental health or substance use issues, jails and prisons loom as a constant threat against the slightest wrong move.
Many of our neighbors are employed by the corrections system. Those employed as corrections officers have a life expectancy many years lower than the average because of the hazards of the job. While precautions have been taken, and some inmates were furloughed from Pike County Corrections Facility, many more could be supervised at home. Many are being held in lieu of cash bail, and would be free if they could afford to pay.
Bail reductions aren’t enough, no one should be subject to contracting COVID-19 because they can’t afford bail, just as no worker should risk infection for a wage that doesn’t secure them adequate housing, healthcare, and quality of life to begin with. For these reasons and many more, I have decided to join the organization Put People First! PA and endorse their list of demands related to Covid-19, which can be found at https://www.putpeoplefirstpa.org/coronavirus.