Rainbow Helps Advocate for Vulnerable Prisoner Release Amidst COVID19

Rainbow Elder Care is part of a statewide task force called the Ohio Healthcare Modernization Movement working to modernize Ohio’s HIV criminalization laws to conform with current science and treatment that can suppress the virus to the point of begging undetectable and therefore untransmittable to others. The group also advocates for those accused or convicted under the laws. Currently, our HIV criminalization laws deal only with whether someone with HIV can prove they disclosed their status to sexual partners but they do NOT take into consideration whether the virus was actually transmitted. Click here to learn more about HIV criminalization in Ohio.

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During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have worked collectively to encourage the Ohio Parole Board to recommend to Gov. DeWine the release of some prisoners, including those with HIV and other conditions because their immune systems are compromised, potentially leaving them more vulnerable to Coronavirus in a prison setting. The environmental conditions of prisons and jails are known to amplify the transmission risk of infectious and contagious diseases like the one causing COVID-19.

Below is the letter that was sent to the parole board. Because HIV status is confidential, we can’t know exactly which prisoners were ultimately released by the Governor.

“We are writing to you in support of efforts to prioritize the public health and safety of people in Ohio during this time of national crisis and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19. It is critical to take decisive action now to coordinate a public health strategy and response by getting ahead and staying ahead of the epidemic.

Your community of law enforcement and legal stakeholders should take action in the best interests of public health and safety by immediately collaborating to reduce the strain on correctional resources and ensuring people who are immunocompromised are not put at any higher risk by being needlessly incarcerated in hazardous conditions.

Your local corrections department must work together with your local public health department, other City agencies and County partners to undertake a review of the prison and jail population in your county for the purpose of identifying individuals who are at greatest risk of death or long-term health consequences from COVID-19. We hope to work together on a common sense solution. This includes a three-pronged strategy that requires the full coordination of partners with a commitment to the following;

(1) Immediate release of all non-violent individuals at higher risk of harm from COVID-19 infection, including people over 60, and those with underlying health conditions that infectious disease experts say increase their risk, e.g., lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, or a compromised immune system;

(2) Rapidly decrease incarcerated populations by releasing people detained pre-trial, people detained for administrative reasons including failure to appear or parole violations, and people serving a sentence of a year or less; and

(3) Cease arrests for offenses outlined in Ohio Rev. Code § 2903.11(B)(1), Ohio Rev. Code § 2907.24, Ohio Rev. Code § 241, Ohio Rev. Code § 2907.25, Ohio Rev. Code § 2921.38, and Ohio Rev. Code § 2929.14 that rely on an individual’s HIV status as proof of intent to harm, as well as all low level offenses.

Dr. Anne Spaulding, who heads the Emory University Center for the Health of Incarcerated Persons, recently compared the conditions inside of prisons and jails to cruise ships where COVID-19 infections rapidly spread.[2] It is paramount to the health and safety of not only incarcerated people at higher risk of COVID-19 infection but also other incarcerated people, officers, and staff to decrease the strain on resources within your county correctional system once the virus creates a more significant impact.”

Respectfully,

Kim L. Welter, Ohio Health Modernization Movement Facilitator on behalf of

CANAPI
Caracole Inc.

Equality Ohio

Equitas Health

William Booth, Miami Valley Positives for Positives

The AIDS Task Force of Greater Cleveland

The “DIRT “Advocacy Movement

The Sankofa Initiative

We Think 4 a Change

Graig Cote

Olga Irwin, Positive Women’s Network
Gina Jakeway

Bryan C. Jones, HIV advocate/activist

Jerry Mallicoat, Rainbow Elder Care of Greater Dayton

Naimah O’Neal, Lateefah’s Haven

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