The coronavirus is spreading like wildfire through U.S. correctional facilities, and as high profile prisoners like Tekashi 6ix9ine get granted early release due to health concerns, more and more political leaders and advocates are calling for the same precautionary measures when it comes to non-violent offenders.
At the forefront of this fight is the Last Prisoner Project—a nonprofit organization dedicated to freeing inmates convicted of nonviolent marijuana crimes— which has recently launched an initiative that it believes will help slow the spread of COVID-19 behind bars.
“I’m asking you to imagine what it would be like to be a prison cell during the coronavirus,” founder Steve DeAngelo said in a video released last month.
“If you’re like me, you’d been running around trying to bring everything under control … food and supplies and checking on your family and [social] distancing. When you’re locked up in a cell, you can’t do any of that. You are powerless. You have no control over your food, over your social distance, even over the air you breathe. And already, the coronavirus is in prisons. We need to stop that.”
DeAngelo is urging the public to contact their local officials and urge them to take steps such as: suspending inmates’ copays for medical visits, ensure they have free access to communication devices during lockdowns, grant parole to prisoners over the age of 65, and also release all cannabis prisoners.
It’s estimated that a whopping 40,000 men and women are behind bars for cannabis-related offenses while the cannabis industry is legally booming for others outside of prison.
“There are 2.3 million people in the United States in prison. And the very best way to cut that down immediately will be to release every single person who is in there on cannabis charges, since it never should’ve been a crime in the first place.” DeAngelo explained.
“I’m pissed off, I’m scared. So please pick up the phone, use your email, get in touch with your governor, get in touch with your mayor, get in touch with your department of corrections, and urge them to immediately take these basic, simple humanitarian steps to help our sisters and brothers who are not in a position to be able to help themselves.”