From DARE-Direct Action For Rights & Equality

On Monday the 27th, concerned community members will be calling for action to be taken around the longstanding conditions of toxic neglect and abuse at the ACI, as well as the current 23+ hour COVID lockdown. Formerly incarcerated people – one of whom was released this month – and family members of incarcerated people will speak, after which community members will drive around the facilities to show support for people inside. This action is organized by formerly incarcerated, and family impacted organizers with Direct Action for Rights and Equality’s Behind the Walls Committee; Prisoners Family Union; and Black and Pink Providence.  


Conditions at the ACI have been reported as uninhabitable and hazardous to incarcerated people for decades. In 1977, United States District Court Judge Raymond Pettine ruled that Maximum Security could not meet public health and safety standards in the case of Palmigiano v GarrahyZackary Alvarado, who is currently incarcerated in Maximum, recently described the conditions in that facility:


Right now I currently live in the Prudence 2 Module, which holds 99 inmates. As I stated in the beginning of this letter, the cells are in deplorable conditions. Caked-on rust stains the walls, most cells have mold growing on the ceiling and in the corner of the walls. There’s plumbing issues with the toilets and it constantly stinks 24/7. The DOC was supposed to renovate these cells years ago after inmates were complaining, however, all they do is paint over the stains. No proper ventilation to combat the mold was ever installed and the cleaning supplies they give you do absolutely nothing. I wish the Department of Health would have someone come look inside these cells, actually step inside the cells and tell me that the conditions are fine and safe. Since being in prison I have acne all over my body, they swell up and then bleed. I have scars all over my back. The doctors tell me that it is some kind of fungus that they only see in here and do not have an effective way of treating it.


Numerous individuals in contact with Direct Action for Rights and Equality, a nonprofit that organizes with people impacted by the prison system, have reported similar conditions at the Intake and Medium security facilities over the past year: toxic mold in the cells and mattresses; sewage dripping from the ceilings, including in the dining area; and inadequate ventilation. Multiple individuals additionally reported power outages and loss of heat in Intake, Medium, and Max this past month, during which temperatures have repeatedly dipped into the single digits and teens.   


In response to COVID, incarcerated people have once again been placed in severely restrictive conditions, spending over 23+ hours in cells, without access to the gym, library, and educational programming. In some blocks, incarcerated individuals receive only 15 minutes to shower and make a phone call, with over 50 people crowding phones at a time. Even as RIDOC has imposed cruelly restrictive conditions on the incarcerated population, individuals report that COs are returning to work with less than five days’ isolation after exposure to COVID and are not wearing their masks. 


In addition to these conditions, incarcerated people regularly report racist abuse by COs and being placed in solitary confinement for weeks on end as punishment for reporting grievances or showing any resistance to abuse. 


Organizer demands are:


  1. Increase time outside cells by rearranging the rec schedule. 
  2. Install more phones in the facilities to safely accommodate limited rec time and access due to COVID precautions. 
  3. Provide adequate PPE, according to CDC recommendations, for incarcerated people.
  4. Renovate and detoxify facilities.
  5. Provide additional mental healthcare services.
  6. Restore access to educational programming and good time. 
  7. Provide accessible and safe means for incarcerated people to report grievances. 
  8. Reduce the prison population to control the spread of disease by restoring lost good time, expediting parole hearings, and utilizing medical parole. 


Last fall, incarcerated people organized a week-long hunger strike inside Maximum Security facility, where over three hundred incarcerated people organized for an immediate end to lockdown and restoration of recreational time, access to phone calls, shower time, and access to video visitation.  


In November 2019, nearly 100% of the incarcerated population contracted COVID in Maximum Security due to CO misconduct and longer term issues of neglect in the building, including a non-existent ventilation system.


Juan Turbidez, an organizer of Friday’s action, stated: “They closed down a school in Warren for a little bit of mold. Incarcerated people are living with this every day, 24/7. They don’t give a damn about incarcerated people’s lives.”

The Coalition Radio Network’s Past Challenges to the Correctional System (April 2021)


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