Throughout the pandemic, prisons have been one of the hardest-hit spaces for inmates and staff alike, with high rates of infection and minimal to no proper protective equipment or access to adequate hygiene. Back in April, Cook County Jail in Chicago suffered the worst COVID-19 outbreak the country had seen.
For today’s episode, Wednesday host Ali Muldrow focuses on how the coronavirus has impacted prison populations and further revealed the glaring injustices of mass incarceration in the United States.
Our first guest is journalist Adryan Corcione, who covers transgender incarceration for Shadowproof and is the co-founder of the COVID-19 Behind Bars project. They talk about the trauma of incarceration, the health effects of solitary confinement, the neglect of medical needs and lack of access to basic hygiene items in prison, the added risks for transgender and pregnant prisoners.
Then, Robert Thibault of Milwaukee IWOC and Ben Turk from Forum for Understanding Prisons shed more light on the situation in Wisconsin prisons and the injustices faced there, including high cost of commissary items ($9 for a roll of toilet paper) and how racism undergirds our criminal justice system and the public conversation around “safety.”
Adryan Corcione is a freelance journalist and writer based in Philadelphia. They are a columnist for Shadowproof, covering transgender incarceration, and co-founder of the COVID-19 Behind Bars independent journalism project.
Robert Thibault is a member of Milwaukee Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC). He is also involved with Prison Action Milwaukee and the restorative justice and prison ministry committee at his Catholic parish.
Ben Turk is a longtime prison advocate working with the non-profit Forum for Understanding Prisons, which is currently helping people file clemency waiver requests.
On May 26, 2020, Milwaukee IWOC issued the following press release: “A physical therapist nurse on staff at Fox Lake Correctional Institution (FLCI) has tested positive for COVID-19. At 8 am count this morning several residents who had been in contact with her were moved to the segregation unit for quarantine. Their roommates were not moved from general population.” Read the full press release here or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.