On Nov. 21, several dozen members of Beacon Prison Action, the Release Aging People in Prison Group (RAPP) and the End the New Jim Crow Action Network (ENJAN) marched from Memorial Park in Beacon to the Fishkill Correctional Facility to raise awareness about the spread of COVID-19 and the unsafe conditions there.
We were a lively bunch. We chanted “We don’t want no prison nation / Stop elder incarceration.” We made enough noise outside the prison that inmates came to the windows, waved, held up fists and chanted with us. “We need masks!” yelled one. Prisoners at Fishkill are issued one flimsy mask per week and there is inadequate soap and hand sanitizer. We were told inmates are not allowed to receive face masks in care packages.
In such close quarters, it is almost inevitable that the virus will be spreading, turning a prison term into a possible death sentence for older and medically vulnerable prisoners.
Fishkill, with its elderly population, has had six deaths. We are asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo to grant clemency to medically vulnerable inmates of a certain age who are at high risk. In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy last month ordered the release of more than 2,000 prisoners; Cuomo has released five.
Marie Edwards, Beacon