Advocates call on Evers to address prison COVID outbreaks
“Prisons are uniquely dangerous...”
MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - It’s day one of a sit-in outside the Governor’s Mansion in Madison. A group of concerned citizens there are demanding that Governor Evers take responsibility and action for the hundreds of COVID-19 cases inside state prisons.
Protestors with EXPO, Ex Incarcerated People Organizing, expressed concerns over crowded and unhygienic living spaces inside the facilities contributing to the spread. Many also felt that there is lack of transparency from the governor in reporting coronavirus hospitalizations and deaths.
“The governor not only hasn’t done anything, he hasn’t used his extraordinary powers to move some people out of the prisons to make them safe, he hasn’t even expressed his concern. He hasn’t even acknowledged that this is a problem.” Says David Liners, the state coordinator for WISDOM.
Those involved in the sit-in are urging the governor to release, or relocate, inmates that are elderly or have preexisting conditions. Right now more than 700 inmates and almost 200 staff have an active COVID-19 diagnoses in the state. The Dodge County Medical Examiner just confirmed 2 inmate deaths related to COVID-19 earlier this month.
“Prisons are uniquely dangerous. They’re so crowded. One of the public health people said, it’s like a cruise ship except not as pleasant. You know but in terms of everyone breathing the same air and in terms of impossible for social distancing,” says Liners.
One former inmate, Niki Wilichowski, addressed the governor directly in an emotional plea.
“Have you forgotten that if they die in there, they will lose their hope and their future and any benefit that they could have done for your economy, for our government, for anything. There’s so much untapped talent that we have just discarded. Have you forgotten the potential that you are killing?” says Wilichowski.
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