Puente Human Rights Movement and Advancement Project National Office Call On Arizona Governor, State and Federal Law Enforcement Agencies to Release All People From Incarceration, End Flow Of New People Into Jail, Prison, and Immigration Detention Amid COVID-19 Crisis
Citing the global health pandemic, civil rights organization urge state officials to release incarcerated people
PHOENIX, AZ–In a letter sent to state officials March 19, Puente Human Rights Movement and Advancement Project National Office are calling on Gov. Doug Ducey, Arizona Immigration & Customs Enforcement & Removal Operations (ICE ERO), the Arizona Department of Corrections (DOC), and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office to protect the lives of vulnerable community members by immediately releasing all people from incarceration and ending the flow of new people into jail, prison, and immigration detention systems amidst the COVID-19 outbreak.
The letter, which was also sent to Congressman Raul M. Grijalva and the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, cites the ongoing COVID-19 crisis as a call to release incarcerated people. The pandemic has already seen more than 30 people in the state infected by the virus and hundreds have been tested and are awaiting their results—health officials expect the number to surge in the coming weeks.
“During times of crisis, we must unite as a community to ensure everyone is safe, healthy and taken care of no matter their legal or conviction status,” said Jovana Renteria, Co-Director of Puente Human Rights Movement. “The only legitimate response to the COVID-19 pandemic is decarceration. Incarcerated people are at an increased risk of exposure and death, and the consequences of foregoing the responsibility to protect their lives will be devastating.”
There are over 42,000 people incarcerated in Arizona’s prisons, according to the state, and thousands more in immigration facilities run by ICE. Arizona incarcerates 10 percent of the immigrants in detention across the country. Incarcerated people are at an increased risk of COVID-19 exposure including death, and the consequences of foregoing the responsibility to protect their lives will be devastating.
“We believe people are going to die. Medical neglect is the norm in prisons, detention centers, and jails,” said Losmin Jimenez, Project Director and Senior Attorney for the Immigrant Justice Project at Advancement Project National Office. “We are very concerned about ICE and Arizona DOC’s ability to provide adequate medical treatment, especially during a pandemic.”
The imprisonment crisis is disproportionately felt by communities of color, namely Brown and Latinx, Black, and Native communities in Arizona. In October of 2019, Puente Human Rights Movement and Advancement Project National Office released “The Carceral State of Arizona: The Human Cost of Being Confined,” a report that exposes the extreme inhumane conditions inside ICE detention facilities, jails, and prisons in the state; and how these harmful practices feed the mass incarceration crisis across America.
“Arizona must act immediately to protect the public by releasing as many people as it can from jails, prisons, and detention centers,” said Thomas Harvey, Program Director for the Justice Project at Advancement Project National Office. “On their best day, prisons and jails are places where people regularly die from inadequate healthcare. In the middle of a global pandemic, who knows what harm we are causing by continuing to incarcate people? Arizona officials should work closely with Puente Human Rights Movement to free the maximum number of human beings from Arizona cages, and to set a new standard for decarceration in the name of public safety.”
To view a copy of the letter and demands click here.
National immigrant justice experts Losmin Jimenez, Thomas Harvey, and immigrant rights activist Jovana Renteria of Puente are available for interviews.
Puente Human Rights Movement is a grassroots migrant justice organization based in Phoenix, Arizona that develops, educates, and empowers migrant communities to protect and defend families and communities.
Advancement Project National Office is a multi-racial civil rights organization. Founded by a team of veteran civil rights lawyers in 1999, Advancement Project National Office was created to develop and inspire community-based solutions based on the same high-quality legal analysis and public education campaigns that produced the landmark civil rights victories of earlier eras.