Local and State Faith Leaders Send Letter to Congressional Leadership—Urging Lawmakers to Protect Incarcerated Men, Women, and Staff in Future COVID-19 Legislation
Washington, D.C.— Prison Fellowship®, the nation’s largest Christian nonprofit serving prisoners, former prisoners, and their families, joined other local, state, and national faith leaders and organizations in urging Congressional leadership to “remember those in prison” and be a voice for their protection and care while drafting future legislation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Monday, July 27, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) introduced Health, Economic Assistance, Liability, and Schools Act (“HEALS Act”). The legislation outlines Senate Republican majority’s priorities for “phase four” of the congressional response to COVID-19. The legislation includes provisions to expand virus testing and help small businesses and schools but has very limited provisions addressing the justice system. With the introduction of the HEALS Act, Capitol Hill negotiations on “Phase Four” COVID-19 legislation are set to accelerate in the hopes of a bipartisan final agreement in the coming weeks.
“As we near 90,000 positive COVID-19 cases in prisons nationwide, the pandemic continues to increase anxiety among people living and working in corrections facilities,” said James Ackerman, president and CEO of Prison Fellowship. “Our leaders in Congress must come together to protect and care for this often-forgotten population with reforms and funding that will advance human dignity and literally save lives.”
“We commend Majority Leader McConnell for the proposed relief funding within the HEALS Act for the U.S. Marshal Service and Bureau of Prisons as they rise to the challenges presented by COVID-19” said Heather Rice-Minus, senior VP of advocacy and church mobilization for Prison Fellowship. “However, this is insufficient to slow the spread of the virus within nationwide correctional facilities and pave a safe path to reintegration for those coming home during these uncertain times. As negotiations continue, Prison Fellowship urges members of Congress to include priority bipartisan reforms such as Pell Grant restoration and the COVID-19 Safer Detention Act.”
- Prison Fellowship has endorsed bipartisan policies to protect and care for those impacted by crime and incarceration during this historic crisis. These include responsible sentencing relief for medically vulnerable federal prisoners (COVID-19 Safer Detention Act), emergency funding of reentry services, and Pell Grant restoration to help incarcerated students contribute to our workforce and improve post-release outcomes.
- As congressional negotiations proceed, COVID-19 continues to bring fear and uncertainty to those living and working in correctional environments. Several large COVID-19 hotspots are in correctional environments. Data tracking from Prison Fellowship reports 86,588 total positive cases of COVID-19 and 717 total deaths from the virus in prison as of July 23. High unemployment rates and reduced reentry services create additional challenges for those working toward a second chance in American communities.
Prison Fellowship is the nation’s largest outreach to prisoners, former prisoners, and their families, and a leading voice for criminal justice reform. With more than 40 years of experience helping restore men and women behind bars, Prison Fellowship advocates for federal and state criminal justice reforms that transform those responsible for crime, validate victims, and encourage communities to play a role in creating a safe, redemptive, and just society.
For interview requests, please contact Jim Forbes, Prison Fellowship’s Director of Communications, at (703) 554-8540 or email him at Jim_forbes@pfm.org.