Hundreds Join Philly Car Caravan to Demand Decarceration
With protest and interfaith pray-in, protestors call on Judges and the Mayor to act

PHILADELPHIA PA (April 10, 2020) Today at 1:30pm, a caravan of cars will converge at City Hall in Philadelphia to demand that Mayor Kenney and the First Judicial District take action to immediately release people from the city’s jails in the face of COVID-19.

“It is completely unacceptable that our Mayor and judges have not taken sufficient steps to release people quickly,” said Cara Tratner of the Philadelphia Community Bail Fund. “Judges Patrick Dugan, Leon Tucker, and Idee Fox have the power to save lives -- instead
they are putting thousands of incarcerated people, workers, and their family members at extreme and unnecessary risk. If they do not act now, these jails are going to become death camps.”

The protest is timed to take place during the Mayor’s press briefing, and will include cars covered with banners and signs and amplified recordings of people currently in the city jails. After the rally at City Hall, the car caravan will travel to the jails for an interfaith pray-in led by Reverend Mark Tyler and Rabbi Jessica Rosenberg.

In honor of Good Friday and Passover, faith leaders will speak about how their religions demand action in the face of injustice. They will lead prayers for all those incarcerated and their loved ones, and lead the car caravan in honking loud enough for those
behind bars to hear. Many people incarcerated in the city jails also know about the action and plan to listen in from their windows.

“I don’t think we should die in jail like animals die in cages,” said Luz Acevedo, who will speak at the rally after being bailed out by the Philadelphia Community Bail Fund just days ago. “There’s nothing we can do in there, we are locked in. Our rights are
taken totally away. If this epidemic hits RCF, a lot of us are going to be dead. And I don’t know what the government is planning to do. We need a voice.”

Protestors are demanding the Mayor take executive action to release people and calling on the First Judicial District leadership to release the vast majority of people by granting parole, lifting detainers, ending cash bail, reviewing everyone in detention for possible
release, and prioritizing release for youth, elderly people, and people who are medically vulnerable.

“Jails are particularly ill-equipped to handle a pandemic,” said Jon Cioschi of LILAC. “The nature of confinement makes it impossible for people to practice social distancing, and inadequate healthcare and limited sanitation supplies will help the virus spread. We
are taking the streets today to say we will not leave our loved ones behind.”

As of Wednesday, there were 62 confirmed COVID cases in the county jails, not including staff. While .03% of Philadelphians have been confirmed positive for COVID, 1.5% of those living in jail have the virus -- a rate that’s five times higher. Municipalities
across the country, including Pittsburgh, have taken significant steps to decrease the population of their jails, but Philadelphia officials have not.

“Philly’s
large incarcerated population is overwhelmingly Black, brown, and low-income,” said Councilmember Kendra Brooks.
“A high number of people behind bars have serious health conditions, putting them at a higher risk of dying from COVID-19, where social distancing measures are near impossible. Their lives are not disposable. These are human beings who have the right to be kept safe and healthy just like everyone else. We have a collective
responsibility to protect all of our community members during this pandemic, especially our most vulnerable populations. I’m here today because I believe as a City we must move quicker to decrease the number of people behind bars in order to keep everyone safe. Each day we delay puts more lives at risk that we will never get back. Let’s work together to bring them home.”

On Thursday, community organizers held a press briefing to release audio recordings of people held at Riverside Correctional Facility (RCF) as they expressed fears for their lives, concern for their families, and a lack of adequate health information and sanitation
supplies. Some of that audio is available here: tinyurl.com/RCFCall1
and tinyurl.com/RCFCall2.

“I’m a grandmother of five and a mother of four, and I already have [medical] complications. I don’t want to die in here,” one woman at RCF explains during a recorded phone call.

Follow the action online at facebook.com/decarceratepa or by following the hashtag #FreeOurPeople

This action is cosponsored by: #No215Jail Coalition, ACLU-PA, Decarcerate PA, Frontline Dads, Movement Alliance Project (formerly Media Mobilizing Project), Philadelphia Bail Fund, Philadelphia Community Bail Fund, the Youth Art & Self-empowerment Project,
Vietlead, Philadelphia Domestic Workers Alliance, Juntos, DIsabled in Action of PA, Philly ADAPT, PA ADAPT, and Partnership for Inclusive
Disaster Strategies
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