HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — There was a loud protest in front of the Governor’s Residence on Monday. The drive-by honking of horns was a symbolic gesture from families of prison inmates. They said they’re angry at the state’s response to COVID-19 in prisons.
So far, 32 correction officers and 21 inmates have tested positive and are in quarantine.
A parade of 40 cars also displayed signs with messages like “Free the People.” Family members said they want low-level prison inmates released from prison and fear they are being exposed behind bars.
“I support us releasing multiple inmates to society because if you don’t, it is a death sentence,” said Waterbury resident Stacy Rivera.
Her son is serving a 15-month sentence for having an illegal weapon in a car. He was moved to Northern Correctional Institue in Somers three months ago. He’s complained about not getting medical care for a heart condition.
“When you have 72 inmates and then all of a sudden get a flood of 40 more inmates from all over how can you feel safe?” Rivera said.
The protest coordinator, Joshua Frazier of the Katal Center for Health, Equity and Justice, believes the governor’s “failure to react and act on this issue is going to cause more harm to our communities.”
Hartford police broke up the protest peacefully.
The governor responded by telling people to call him. Corrections officials report since the beginning of March, more than 700 inmates have been released. Department of Correction Commissioner Rollin Cook said “that’s the most in state history.”
The group left a note on the governor’s intercom. It states: “Release incarcerated people in response to COVID19. Your inaction will kill our loved ones.”
Other states around the region like New York and New Jersey have released lower-level prisoners in order to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus in the prison system.
Imani Pennant, Orlando, Florida, described his recent release from a Connecticut prison saying, “all they did was check my temperature and release me.”
Pennant just got out of MacDougall Walker Prison in Suffield after serving seven months for forgery. The former UConn student claims the state is being reckless with COVID-19 in prisons.
Pennant claims “they didn’t sanitize the jails or any of the cells or day rooms.” And he went on to say there are “no gloves or masks for employees at all.”
He said so far he feels fine.