Louisiana buys new toys from cops as prisoners with COVID sent to dungeons
As infection rates skyrocket and Louisiana is one of the worst-affected states in the country, those in power are now making difficult and controversial decisions to combat the resurgence of the pandemic within a prison system already tense and much criticized. Better choices, or at least additional options, might have been on the table at some point … if lawmakers weren’t so keen on continuing to funnel millions of dollars into his panoptic experiment underway here in Nova Scotia. Orleans.
Instead, less than two months after the state spent $ 70 million to install additional surveillance cameras around its largest city, the notorious Louisiana State Penitentiary said it had been forced (once again) to reopen his infamous Camp J facility – a 400-unit complex with rooms barely taller than modern dungeons – in order to house his prisoners who tested positive for COVID-19. Or, at least, inmates who admit to feeling sick or who are identified by correctional staff.
“From our conversations, we also heard that incarcerated people with COVID-like symptoms were hiding these symptoms instead of reporting them, for fear of being transferred to Camp J,” read a recent open letter from the Louisiana Stop Solitary Coalition addressed to the State. executive director of the Sheriff’s Association, Michael Ranatza. The funds are there, however: Louisiana has $ 700 million in federal aid specifically earmarked for prisons to fight COVID-19. The state just doesn’t use it. Priorities, right?
A long history of being horrible – You don’t want to go to Angola. Louisiana State Prison has resided in the small town along the Mississippi River since 1901, on property that was once a slave plantation. It’s called Angola because that’s where most of these early slaves came from, and little has changed since.
There is not enough space here to document the long, terrible and racist history of Angola State Prison. But that Camp J has its own reputation within this prison speaks volumes. At six feet wide, his cells do not meet American Correctional Association standards for a full foot. The detainees regularly complained of unsanitary and inhuman living conditions. Speaking on its initial closure in 2018, Mercedes Montagnes, executive director of the Promise of Justice initiative in New Orleans, told a local newspaper: “Camp J … was being used to house people who had more need for mental health care than discipline. . “
This is not the first time that this pandemic – As previously mentioned, this is not the first time that Louisiana has decided to reopen Camp J for inmates in the region who test positive for COVID-19; the governor was sued last year for stopping the transfer of sick detainees there shortly after the strategy was first implemented. At one point, more than 100 prisoners were housed there, many of whom complained of dirty water, mold and rodent infestations. As cases dwindled, use of Camp J declined, but the recent wave fueled by the delta variant again resulted in the complex being reopened by prison authorities.
Solitary confinement is not medical isolation – As many medical and prison experts have reiterated during the COVID-19 pandemic, putting sick populations in isolation is in no way comparable to the policy of medical isolation in a prison. On the contrary, imposing solitary confinements on pandemic populations only makes the situation worse for everyone involved. “The use of these units for medical purposes, although often necessary, can lead to the risk that prison officers will fall back on regular policies and procedures governing the living conditions in these units which adversely affect the health of those exposed” , we read in a report on the reform of prison health. advocacy group, Amend.
Quarantine is necessary, but the lack of adequate facilities means that countless prisoners have been transferred to rooms designed only to punish and not to rehabilitate. In reality, there is simply no feasible way to make these conditions sufficiently tolerable or healthy to allow their use for the recovery of prisoners. In Louisiana’s Camp J, for example, the Stop Solitary Coalition reported that many people transferred there “often take more than a month to then test negative” for the virus.
Not enough data for local prisons – Unfortunately, there is simply not enough information to understand how well local Louisiana prisons are faring during the pandemic. As a local investigative medium, The lens, explains: “Throughout the pandemic, there has been virtually no statewide data on the impact of the pandemic on people in these facilities – including the number of infections or of deceased.”
Although vaccination rates for the state’s inmate population are around 72 percent (almost double the state’s general population), places like the New Orleans Justice Center have much lower ratios. In an email response to To input At the end of last week, the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office reported that 100% of its staff at the Orleans Justice Center were vaccinated, while “57% of the current active prison population” had been vaccinated. vaccinated. All new detainees would be quarantined for 14 days before being assigned to a housing unit. Additionally, OPSO did not give further details in its response that “we also have detailed instructions and procedures” on how they treat detainees who test positive, other than transferring them to a medical facility ” if necessary “.
The vaccines and the funds are there – Ultimately, Louisiana continues to let down its prisoners – and, by extension, its population in general – by relying on inadequate and inhumane facilities, failing to immediately provide vaccines to new detainees, and spending funds. where they are not needed. Louisiana doesn’t even have to divert its money from racist, unreliable and invasive facial recognition technology – it has this federal help it can use.
Stop Solitary Coalition pleaded for lawmakers to accept his offer, to which Corrections Department spokesman Ken Pastorick said The lens, “In addition to seeking $ 700 million in federal funds, what do they recommend? … In addition to DOC’s medical and security staff, Camp J is staffed with contract medical personnel, including nurses.” Before opening at the start of the pandemic, Camp J was cleaned, painted and fitted with air conditioning and televisions. “
He then mentioned that the prison authorities are currently offering inmates a $ 5 credit to the canteen for vaccinations.