By John Vibes / Truth Theory
In a recent video published online, “Joker” star Joaquin Phoenix urged New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to release the region’s prisoners during the pandemic.
In the video, the actor said, “The spread of coronavirus in prisons threatens the health and safety of all of us. When you’re incarcerated, there’s no such thing as social distancing, and ensuring good hygiene is not an option. I’m calling on Governor Andrew Cuomo to take action in New York by granting clemency to New Yorkers in prison. The lives of so many people depend on his action. No one deserves to die in prison from COVID-19.”
A message from Oscar award winning actor Joaquin Phoenix: “I’m calling on @NYGovCuomo to take action in New York by granting clemency to New Yorkers in prison. The lives of so many people depend on his action. No one deserves to die in prison from COVID-19.” #ClemencyNow pic.twitter.com/CEFEkwVTBV
— Release Aging People in Prison Campaign (@RAPPcampaign) April 14, 2020
Last month, the Cuomo administration ordered the release of 1,100 low-level parole violators as a pandemic precaution, but inmate advocates have pointed out that this is such a small fraction of the city’s nonviolent offenders, and that high prison populations are still creating a dangerous situation for nearby communities.
Experts have argued that prisons can be like “Petri dishes” and encourage the spread of disease because inmates are held together in such crowded facilities that are typically not kept in the most sanitary conditions. Prison food is also not very nutritious and has likely left many inmates with weakened immune systems, leaving them even more vulnerable to catching illnesses like the one sweeping across the world. In fact, the largest cluster of new cases in the US is in Chicago’s Cook County Jail, where hundreds of inmates and staff have now tested positive for the virus.
These facilities are acting as incubation centers for the illness, which ultimately leads to greater spread in nearby communities. The virus was likely initially brought into the prison by correctional officers and other workers at the facility, or perhaps by friends or family members of inmates before visitation was stopped last month. Once the virus finds its way into one of these facilities, it can spread very easily because the inmates are kept in close proximity in unsanitary conditions. Once the virus spreads throughout the prison, corrections officers and other workers then take the virus back to their families and communities.
Unrest has also been occurring at prisons all over the world as inmates feel that they are being put in danger amid the current pandemic. Last week, there was a prison riot involving over 100 inmates at the Monroe Corrections Complex in Washington state. Then last month, 16 inmates escaped a prison in Italy after a riot broke out because officials canceled all visits. In Iran, over 100,000 inmates have been released from prison, but those who remained have also rioted in hopes of breaking free.