Yesterday’s Decarceration Virtual Rally was a huge success thanks to an all-star line-up of speakers.  Rev. Dr. John Welch, chair of the Gamaliel Board of Directors, and Rev. Marian Boyle-Rohloff, chair of the Gamaliel Religious Leaders’ Caucus, co-moderated the event which included moving testimonies from Gamaliel leaders impacted by the criminal justice system; presentations from partner organizations working to reform the system; and reflections from Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist on the work he is doing in Michigan to decarcerate, particularly in light of the spread of COVID-19.

Rev. Dr. Cornell William Brooks, Professor of the Practice of Public Leadership and Social Justice at Harvard, issued a powerful call to action urging immediate and aggressive action to decarcerate vulnerable people in our jails, prisons, and detention centers.  He lifted up a series of steps—developed by the Gamaliel Transformational Justice Team—that need to be taken within a week in every jurisdiction in the country to protect ALL of our people from the spread of the coronavirus.

Some Gamaliel states followed up immediately after the decarceration rally with their own statewide rallies or planning sessions.  For example, WISDOM, Gamaliel’s statewide affiliate in Wisconsin, hosted a follow-up rally/strategy session with 70 leaders participating.  They heard testimony and updates on Wisconsin’s efforts to decarcerate and created a plan of four actions to be taken immediately:

  • A person designated by each local WISDOM affiliate to call the Governor’s office, following up on a letter sent to him about decarceration;
  • The launch of a massive email campaign to engage community members in the call for decarceration;
  • Contacts from rally participants to urge their State Senators and Assembly Representatives to push the Governor to act immediately; and
  • Outreach within each local WISDOM affiliate on this critical issue.

GAMALIEL, IT IS TIME FOR US TO ACT IMMEDIATELY AND AGGRESSIVELY, to reduce the spread of the coronavirus by reducing the number of people being held in our prisons, jails, and detention centers. 

 In order to address this issue as it impacts federal prisons, contact your Members of Congress.  [Use the Capitol Switchboard phone number, (202) 224-3121 or (888) 352-3520, and ask for your Member’s office.]  Credential yourself and tell them this:

“In jails, prisons, and detention centers, especially those that are overcrowded, it is impossible for inmates to adhere to the kinds of ‘social distancing’ measures that public health experts recommend to stop or slow the spread of the dangerous and highly infectious coronavirus.  In this time of emergency, you must take aggressive and immediate steps to reduce the number of people being held in these locations.  It is a public health imperative!”

Then share some examples of these steps as outlined in the Gamaliel Statement on Decarceration.

You can also address this issue—using the same message—on the local and state levels by contacting your Governor, State Parole Board, and your County/City Council Members and Prosecutors.

Your action can reduce the spread of COVID-19 and protect the most vulnerable among us, particularly those in our jails, prisons, and detention centers!

Si se puede!

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Ana Garcia-Ashley