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Groups to protest treatment of prisoners, guards as virus spreads

Delaware News Desk

Justice reform advocates led by Justice for Prisoners organizer Heather Morris are staging a prisoners’ rights protest Friday, Aug. 7 at 3 p.m., outside the Dover office of Gov. John Carney at the Tatnall Building, 150 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. South, near Legislative Hall.

Friends and families of prisoners at the Sussex Correctional Institution are planning to join Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware at the rally to deliver a list of demands to Carney.

To ensure the safety of guards and inmates, they are asking for:

Proper medical care. Universal testing and personal protective equipment must be made mandatory for all guards, staff and inmates. The state must remove the co-pay inmates must pay in order to receive medical care while behind bars. The right to shower must be protected, and not included as part of inmates’ recreation time.

Correctional officer accountability. All reported incidents of abuse must be promptly investigated. Measures should be put in place to prevent retaliation against inmates who report abuse by correctional officers. Steps must be taken to put into place a statewide civilian review board. 

Transparency. Publish how and why inmates and guards are deemed to be “recovered.”

Release/sentence suspension. Immediately release those most vulnerable to the effects of Covid-19, including inmates who are elderly and those who have pre-existing medical conditions that make them vulnerable to infection, as well as those who have less than six months in their sentences.

With the high number of coronavirus cases in Delaware’s prisons, friends and families of inmates are calling on the state’s governor to dramatically increase inmate access to healthcare, increase accountability for abuses committed by correctional officers, and to expand transparency in the system’s reporting on spread of the coronavirus.

The groups said concerns have heightened since mid-July over revelations that hundreds of Delaware inmates tested positive for the coronavirus.