Marie Franco, Mother of  Jose Franco, held a press conference alongside her lawyer, David Strachman, and community organizers from the RI COVID Response: Decarcerate NOW Coalition, outside the Rhode Island ACI Medium Security Prison

Marie’s son, Jose, unexpectedly passed in RIDOC custody nearly a month ago. He was found dead in his cell on February 9th. He was 46 years old, and friends and family reported that he was in good health prior to his death; he was expected to return home on March 17th.

RIDOC never notified family members of his death. Ms. Franco learned that her son had passed when a friend of his notified the family. After contacting RIDOC multiple times, she was given three different accounts of his death: heart attack, natural causes, and COVID-19. She was not permitted to see her son’s body before he was cremated and had to pay for the autopsy out of her own pocket. She is currently waiting for the autopsy results and received her son’s ashes this week.

Jose Franco is the fourth incarcerated person to die in RIDOC custody since December. He 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 has since been put 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 last spring, a 23+ hour lockdown has been implemented; incarcerated people in the Intake facility currently go 36 hours or longer without time outside cells.

Organizers have also 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.

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.

At a rally for her son last Sunday outside the ACI, Marie Franco said, “To me it’s just excuses. Just lies, after lies, after lies. You don’t do that to a mother that’s grieving for her son….Anything could have happened to my son. Anything. In there.”

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*