What: A speaker program of family members and formerly incarcerated people regarding recent and longstanding abuses by the Brotherhood of Correctional Officers, followed by a march through Roger Williams Park

When: 2 PM on Saturday, April 10, 2021

Where: Roger Williams Park, starting from the Temple of Music

Family members of incarcerated people and formerly incarcerated community organizers from the RI COVID Response: Decarcerate NOW Coalition are rallying at Roger Williams Park this Saturday, 4/10 at 2 PM in protest of abuse by correctional officers in RI prisons. 

On 3/22, correctional officers (COs) brutally beat a man named Francisco Vega in Medium Security until he blacked out. When he regained consciousness he had been pepper sprayed and one CO was positioned on his body in a way that prevented him from breathing. Mr. Vega has been diagnosed with asthma and reported that he felt like he was going to die. The CO eventually stopped the suffocating behavior; however, Mr. Vega was left with injuries on his arms, elbows, knees, wrist and the back of his head, as well as memory loss. He received no treatment for any of these injuries and had no follow-up with a nurse or doctor after an initial visit with a nurse on the day of the incident. 

Mr. Vega has since been transferred to High Security and will be in solitary confinement for the next fourteen months. He has not been able to make a phone call to his wife and children, who will be present at tomorrow’s rally. 

Four incarcerated people have died in RIDOC custody since December 2020. Jose Franco passed in February, just weeks before his expected release. He was in good health and his family was given three different stories about his cause of death. His mother held a press conference in March and is still awaiting the results of the autopsy, for which she was forced to pay. 

Mr. Franco passed less than a month after Timothy McQuesten, who died in the Intake facility. At his arraignment McQuesten expressed concern that he was missing his antipsychotic medication. He was placed on crisis status, which required COs to perform more regular checks. They failed to do this and he took his own life. A CO was placed on paid administrative leave.

Ms. Franco and community organizers have heard reports from inside the prison that a CO did not complete his mandated rounds on the night of her son’s death as well.  

Since the COVID-19 outbreak last March, community members and organizers have repeatedly called on the state to reduce the prison population and to address unsanitary and abusive conditions that pre-existed the pandemic but have worsened since COVID shutdowns. Protests against the prison began last March and escalated last December when 95% of the Maximum Security prison contracted COVID-19. Six medical students and professionals from the collective Code Black were arrested blocking the road outside Governor Raimondo’s house at a Decarcerate NOW vigil for Jeffrey Washington, who passed in RIDOC custody due to COVID-19. 

Organizers have pointed to a discrepancy between prison policies and conditions reported by incarcerated people and their loved ones, as well as a lack of accountability around negligence and abuse by correctional officers and medical staff. Incarcerated people and family members have reported denial of life-sustaining medications by medical staff; COs failing to wear masks and maintain social distance; prisoners being harshly disciplined and put into segregation for attempting to clean cells and phone stalls; and COs placing COVID-negative prisoners in exposure to COVID-positive individuals. Incarcerated people routinely report experiencing humiliation and physical abuse at the hands of COs. 

The Decarcerate NOW Coalition is calling on the state to 

  1. Halt arrests and grant personal recognizance and bail to reduce the numbers of people at the ACI. Hundreds are currently incarcerated for parole and probation violations or awaiting trial. 
  2. Restore good time and grant parole wherever possible to reduce the existing prison population. 
  3. End 23+ hour lockdown and fully restore programming, visitation, and access to the outdoors. In order to limit the use of segregation, incarcerated people must be provided adequate PPE; prisoners testing positive and negative cannot be placed in contact with one another; and COs must be held accountable around social distancing and mask wearing. 
  4. Provide transparency and accountability to incarcerated people’s families. Create an external oversight board with incarcerated people and their families that can address prisoner grievances, including reports of correctional staff abuse. 
  5. Redistribute tax dollars that are funding CO salaries towards reentry supports for formerly incarcerated people. 

 

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