194 | Free Them Now: Protests and Planning in the Face of COVID-19

This week, we continue our coverage of the pandemic’s impact on prisoners across the country.  A COVID-19 uprising broke out in Washington state this week.  On April 8, 100 prisoners refused to comply with orders to disperse a protest, and were attacked by so-called “less lethal weapons” like rubber bullets and pepper spray.  They had initiated the protest after half a dozen prisoners and five guards had tested positive for coronavirus. A prisoner statement about the riot is HERE.

The next day, dozens of prisoners seized control of their pod in Lansing Correctional in Kansas, protesting lack of medical care.  At least 12 prisoners have tested positive for COVID-19 there.  Prisoners destroyed guard offices and cameras and barricaded doors.  The revolt was put down by guards early this morning. You can see that video HERE.

This week, we share an audio interview from April 3rd, that we received from a prisoner in Stateville, Joseph Dole, who talks about the situation there, and the death of a fellow inmate. You can access the full, unedited audio HERE. He dictated a statement about the death, which was just sent to us:

My name is Joseph Dole. I am located in cell 533 in D house, where the first inmate to die was located. Unfortunately, I have to report that another guy just passed away in D house — pronounced dead at about 10 AM, prompting the warden’s first appearance here in D house since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

The gentleman who died was in cell D 151 and his name was Larry Bourbon. He was one of the guys that they brought here from X house, when they allegedly turned it into a CV 19 unit. Yesterday, when he was in the shower (maybe a medical shower? or maybe that gallery was brought to showers?), he had feces running down his leg. Last night, they took him to the health-care unit, which sent him back to his cell. This morning, his cellie kept asking the lieutenant to have someone come get him, as he wasn’t doing well. But by the time they arrived (after a long arbitrary delay), he was already dead. By 12:30 PM, they still had not removed his body from the cell or the cell house, even though it is well over 80 degrees in here (due to them still having the heat on, it being 60 degrees outside, and staff refusing to open the windows). After 50 to 100 guys began screaming for them to get his body out of the cell, Finally, at 1 PM, six medical staff came and placed the man’s body in what appeared to be a white medical bag (or sheet), and wheeled him out of the building.

The guards went in and got the dead man’s property and bedding and then handed out food trays without changing their gloves.

The (incarcerated) workers have to stand on the staff to try to get them to clean the cells.

Doctor Izeke (sp?), the other day on the news, claimed that all COVID patients were placed in one building. I had noted to reporters that this could not be true, due to the simple fact that they were not testing people for COVID 19 before moving them out of that building to other cell houses or moving people from the other cell houses to that building. Rather, they were largely going off of the seeming severity of symptoms.

The staff said that they were taking Flaco [a friend of Joe’s] to F house. But F-house was condemned and cannibalized for parts.

Yesterday they came around with hand sanitizer and squoze some in our hands [which they had to use there and then]. They said they were going to bring some before each meal. But then they didn’t bring it the next meal. This has no value in actually allowing us to have protection.

Stop denying video visits; put the phone and video visits on the tablets, allow us to shop each week, yard, test everyone — if guys already have had it and now are recovering and want to go out — let them have yard. The current cell extractions and moves make no sense.”

We are still taking calls at our coronavirus hotline, and we have been hearing from inmates all across the country. We will have more of the calls on our website, and on next week’s show- but we encourage you to get the word out to those you know on the inside, so that they can record a message about the impact of COVID-19 on the facilities they are in. That number is (765) 343-6236.

We end this week’s episode with a conversation with Kelsey Kauffman, a long time prisoner advocate, teacher, and researcher. Kelsey and others have written a detailed plan for combating the mass fatalities currently facing those inside. You can see the plan HERE.

Come back to our website later this week for more call-in audio from prisoners from Illinois, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Georgia- and hopefully more.

UPDATE: One more prisoner, an elderly man named Hollis, died at Stateville from the coronavirus, as of 4/10/20 at 6:00 pm EST.