My husband Jason is incarcerated in Connecticut right now, and I believe he and hundreds of others should be considered for early release because of COVID-19 concerns. My husband, now 48, has served 19 years of a 23-year sentence – just short of 83 percent of his time.
This is who my husband is today: someone who helps others. Over these past 19 years, my husband has made great strides towards bringing the causes and effects of addiction to light. In conjunction with addiction and religious staff in the Department of Correction, my husband has helped develop program ideas and has continually helped other at-risk offenders.
Through continuous positive staff exposure, my husband has managed to network and raise thousands of dollars in funds and tool inventories toward a pay-it-forward initiative he developed that will utilize ex-offenders to help homeless veterans and disaster relief families as a whole. Recently, the victims of my husband’s offense have shown no disapproval to the possibility of a sentence modification, which is currently on hold due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
With COVID-19 in the Connecticut prison system, I fear my husband’s release may never come. Things have been getting really bad in the prison where my husband is. Last week, the staff tested a symptomatic inmate and put his unit on quarantine. Then they said his result came back negative and released him into the population for two days. It was then determined that the person was in fact positive, and 13 men from that unit were moved to Northern – after my husband and others could have been exposed to the virus.
During the next couple of days, they were moving inmates between blocks. When I was on the phone with my husband this weekend, he said there were correctional staff in his unit in full PPE taking several inmates out. While on the call, a CO came up to him and said to finish up his call and get a shower because his unit was going on quarantine. I didn’t hear back from him until late last night, when they popped him out of his cell to make a phone call.
With COVID-19 in the Connecticut prison system, I fear my husband’s release may never come.
We got a 3-minute phone call before they shut the phones down, and in that time he said, “They’re trying to kill us all. They keep moving inmates in and out of [the positive inmate’s] unit from and to other units.”
In addition, the DOC’s new tracker means there is now no transparency on what facilities these positive inmates originate from. They are only reporting that positive cases are at Northern. I also think people are less likely to report symptoms while they’re being threatened with being transferred to Northern.
I am terrified for my husband’s safety and have no idea when I’ll hear from him again. As of last night, at least, he did not feel sick.
My husband says there is tremendous talent in the prison system, and I believe Gov.Ned Lamont should consider looking into releasing people who have served long sentences, who are among the least likely to reoffend according to research by American social scientists. Consider this: there are people who were convicted of violent offenses who are now, decades later, mentors for the youth, college graduates, and even service dog trainers.
People change and deserve a chance at life. As it stands now, there are currently hundreds of offenders that are within months of their 85% mark. Why not consider releasing them a few months earlier, even with ankle bracelets if they need, to give them a fighting chance to shelter in place at home? Social distancing is not an option in prison.
Lisa Gulino is an advocate for prison reform.