For Immediate Release Wednesday April 8th, 2020:
For weeks, our local, state and federal level leadership apparatus have failed to adequately respond to the needs of our community as the COVID-19 pandemic has raged on, devastating our local economy, putting lives at risk, and imperiling both renters and home owners alike. It is increasingly clear to us that we must be the ones driving change and innovation, we must be the ones responding to this crisis in real time. Our leadership is failing us, and the world around us is collapsing. One area that is of an especially high concern for many of us is in regards to our local prisons and jails, and the danger that continuing to mass incarcerate huge numbers of people poses to our community as a whole. Criminal justice experts have repeatedly warned that jails and prisons could become epicenters and vectors for the transmission of the virus to spread throughout our communities exponentially. This threat of our prisons and jails turning into vectors of transmission poses a regional, national, and international security threat, and it is with this fact in mind that we issue our demands.
We are asking our community to call Sheriff Chuck Jenkins and immediately take serious steps to meet our demands. This is a matter of public safety, and Sheriff Jenkins is neglecting his duties to keep our community safe by allowing this situation to continue. We call upon local and state level government officials to join us in our calls to release all ICE detainees and political prisoners who do not pose an immediate danger to a specific person. We call for an immediate cessation of ICE activity, as they are taking away valuable protective equipment from frontlines healthcare workers with their ongoing presence in our community, placing all of us in danger with this reckless policy. We will push for a full investigation of any claims of negligence or violations of human rights that may occur, and we will support those in our community to hold Sheriff Chuck Jenkins and his department criminally and civilly liable to the fullest extent allowed by law for inmate deaths and violations of rights.
We call upon local and state level government officials to apply public pressure to Sheriff Jenkins to release all nonviolent drug offenders. We call upon Sheriff Chuck Jenkins to immediately cease incarcerations for all nonviolent crimes, all property crimes, all substance abuse crimes, all crimes related to immigration status, and all other crimes that can be better handled through alternative sentencing, community service, probation, etc. This is not our preferred approach to justice, but we are capable of recognizing the immediate urgency of the situation. Our elected officials must place the safety and health of the public as a whole over their own personal flavors of justice, and use their voices, pick sides, and strengthen our demands instead of being fearful of rocking the boat, or putting their careers at risk. Now is not the time for unprincipled cowardice. We call upon our community as a whole to recognize the high levels of danger that we are in, and to join us in solidarity in issuing our demands.
Furthermore, we add our seal of approval to the open letter (viewable at the end of this call to action) that has already been drafted and sent to Sheriff Chuck Jenkins. We ask our community to join us in escalating our demands over the phone, for a week long phone campaign demanding the release of these prisoners.
I am calling to demand the immediate release of all nonviolent offenders, political prisoners, ICE detainees, persons who have committed a property crime, and persons who do not pose an immediate threat to a specific person. I am calling out of concern for our local prison and jail population, and the threat that concentrating large numbers of people in tight and unsafe conditions poses towards the safety and health of our community at large. Failure to reduce the prison population in a timely and safe manner will result in the community holding public officials criminally liable for their negligence and their failure to adequately respond to the safety needs of our community. Placing large numbers of people in a tightly confined space is putting the entirety of our community in danger. I am calling to demand that Sheriff Jenkins places public health and community safety above his person political opinions, and does the right thing and releases as many prisoners as can safely be done. Furthermore, I am calling to demand a cessation of ICE activity in Frederick County for the duration of this crisis, as a matter of community safety. ICE officers are taking away protective equipment that needs to be prioritized to frontlines heatlhcare workers during this time of great crisis. The dangers presented by having a community that lives in fear of it's police far exceed any public benefit, especially right now. This is an urgent matter of life and death.
In love and in solidarity with the most oppressed in our community, the ones who struggle, the discarded, the innocent, the written off, the abandoned... our resistance will continue no matter what. You are not alone, and you are not forgotten.