If we #FreeThemAll4PublicHealth, what about housing? Where are people going to go when they’re released?
All people released from prison or jail must have access to safe and stable housing options in community. Anyone released who has family or loved ones who can house them should be allowed and encouraged to return directly to their families. We are asking for transportation support to be provided for those with stable, safe housing options to arrive safely, and for tens of thousands of empty apartments, hotels, and other living spaces in NYC and elsewhere be converted into homes for those without safe, stable housing to which they can return. These spaces should be opened to the city’s houseless people too, too: Department of Homeless Services can not safely house our people any more than the Department of Corrections.As abolitionists we don’t think of abolition as just the closing of prisons, jails, and detention facilities; it is also the presence of vital systems of support, such as housing. We demand the radical expansion of all of the supportive resources our communities need to be strong and healthy. Free Them All.
Is the call to #FreeThemAll4PublicHealth a risk to public safety? Aren’t there some people who are just dangerous?
As abolitionists, our primary goal is to address harm and suffering, and we know that policing and prisons don’t address harm or make anyone safer. Most people who cause harm never go to jail or prison, and if we could incarcerate our way out of social problems, mass incarceration would have already ended all problems. It’s time for New York to invest in real strategies to prevent and address harm, recognizing that locking people up does not address harm, and in fact just produces exponentially more harm in our society p. Every day, people are practicing restorative and transformative justice, involving regular people to meet the needs of those affected by acts of harm. Police, prisons, and jails create major barriers to the kind of safety we all need to live, through physical abuse, harassment, and people’s removal from community, and by monopolizing money that could go towards life-affirming resources. To create a safer society, we must divest from punishment and incarceration and invest in the assets that make our communities healthy and strong: affordable housing, access to mental and physical health care, living wages, and options for addressing interpersonal harm. Free Them All.
Why not just release “the vulnerable” and/or “sick” people? Why release everyone?
Incarceration is unsafe and unhealthy for everyone. Imprisoned people routinely face medical negligence, difficulty meeting basic health needs, and a dramatic increase in chronic health conditions. This moment adds urgency. As the Health Affairs journal notes, “Prisons push people into the path of pandemics.” The practices recommended by health experts– like practicing social distancing, using hand sanitizer, and regularly washing hands– are impossible in jails and prisons. There is no way to safely be in a jail, prison, or detention facility during the COVID-19 pandemic: all incarcerated people are at high risk. The only way to avert a public health crisis (behind bars is to release everyone from these locked, crowded, and unsanitary facilities. Free Them All.
Why are you framing this as a matter of “public health.” Aren’t you just pushing an agenda?
As people around the world are taking action to address the impact and spread of COVID-19, we recognize that incarcerated people are one of the most vulnerable groups. The United States incarcerates more people than any other country in the world and it’s unacceptable to ignore the fate of people behind bars while we are seeking to make public health a top priority. The Chief Physician of Rikers Island advocated for mass release to Mayor Bill di Blasio, saying: “Please let as many out as you possibly can.” In this historic moment, widespread release of prisoners is one of the most effective and practical ways to protect the health and wellbeing of our community members behind bars. Free Them All.
Isn’t this demand impractical?
This is already happening across the country and around the world. Countries like Iran have already released approximately 85,000 prisoners, nearly 40% of all incarcerated people. Counties like Los Angeles, Alameda, and Cuyahoga have also made moves to cut back on jail booking and release large numbers of people. Mass release is a necessary common sense measure. Free Them All.