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Incarceration During COVID-19

As the United States grapples with COVID-19, incarcerated individuals have not received adequate care and protection. With overcrowding and limited access to proper sanitation, “Safer-at-Home” orders and Social Distancing guidelines do not adequately protect individuals who are incarcerated. Tennessee’s prisons and jails have been proven to be hot spots for the virus, with thousands of incarcerated individuals testing positive across the state. Lack of testing in many jails and prisons prevents effective tracing, contributing to the spread of the deadly virus. Multiple individuals at Riverside Maximum Security Institution, where Don is incarcerated, and at the Tennessee Prison for Women, where Shawnda is incarcerated, have tested positive for the virus. In late July, Don was placed in quarantine after being exposed to individuals with the virus. Don has been cleared and is in good health, but he remains at risk as the virus continues to spread through Tennessee prisons. While advocates across the state have been calling for the release of individuals on pre-trial detention, individuals with less than six months remaining in their sentence, individuals with significant health conditions, and individuals eligible for parole, minimal action has been taken by the state. The infiltration of COVID-19 into jails and prisons across the state is a death threat to those on the inside. The current pandemic, in conjunction with the facts of Don and Shawnda’s cases, make it even more critical that we take action to protect not only the freedom but also the lives of these two individuals. Governor Brednesen granted Don and Shawnda clemency in 2012 because he believed they had something to contribute to society. Yet, today they remain caged with their lives at risk as the BOP continues to deny them their deserved freedom. It is important, now more than ever, that we immediately #FreeDon&Shawnda.

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