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Apr 21, 20

Pittsburgh, PA: Call for Phone Zap for Prisoners at Allegheny County Jail

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Call for phone-zap for prisoners at Allegheny County Jail who are at high risk of infection from coronavrirus.

Pittsburgh’s Bukit Bail Fund (https://www.bukitbailfund.org/) is calling for a phone zap marathon in solidarity with prisoners in Allegheny County Jail, who are at at high risk of infection with coronavirus. Targets for the first three days are included below, with more to come soon. Give them no peace until our friends are safe!

More than 1,600 people are currently held in the Allegheny County Jail (ACJ) in crowded, unsanitary conditions. Hundreds of staff enter and leave the facility each day. As of April 9th, more than 80% of those at ACJ are unconvicted; instead, 43% are held on alleged violations of probation, many of them technical violations or based on non-violent charges; 22% of them are held pretrial only, with their presumption of innocence intact; countless numbers are held simply because they cannot afford cash bail. Only 113 people in ACJ are serving a sentence, and nearly all of those sentences are for minor charges.

The outbreak of coronavirus in ACJ will be catastrophic. There are currently 6 positive cases amongst staff and incarcerated persons, with 10 more tests pending results. The jail currently has 48 healthcare positions unfilled – a vacancy rate of over one-third. Older people, those with respiratory and heart conditions, and those with weakened immune systems will immediately overflow the infirmary, and dramatically contribute to overflowing our local hospital capacity.

An outbreak cannot be contained. Most people are double-celled. They eat together, shower in the same places, share toilets. There are not enough hygiene items. And staff will carry this virus back to their families and communities.

ACJ does not allow social distancing. As health experts warned in the Washington Post, “Unless government officials act now, the novel coronavirus will spread rapidly in our jails and prisons, endangering not only prisoners and corrections workers but the general public as well.”

Allegheny County’s response to this grave public health threat has not matched the urgency of the moment. Many vulnerable community members continue to have their petitions and motions denied. This is unacceptable. We must unite and raise our voices until they take all necessary measures to protect public health. While so many of us are stuck at home for the greater good let’s all take the time to make the following calls to get our community and family members out of ACJ.

Wednesday 04/22 from 9 AM to 5 PM:

Call President Judge Kim Berkeley Clark, Judge Jeffrey Manning, Judge Anthony Mariani, and Judge Jill Rangos to demand they lift all holds and eliminate cash bail.

Numbers:

Judge Clark: 412-350-0269

Judge Rangos: 412.350.4346

Judge Mariani: 412.350.3141

Judge Manning: 412.350.7387 Court fax: 412.350.3930 (use https://faxzero.com)

Sample script:

Hello, my name is ______. I am calling as a community member concerned about the spread of Covid-19 in Allegheny County Jail and its effect on the outside community as well. In order to protect our greater community, I am asking you (1) to release all those alleged to have committed a technical probation violation, and (2) to lift all detainers based on new charges, where individuals remain constitutionally innocent. I am also asking for you (3) to immediately release anybody incarcerated on monetary bail, and (4) to direct all magistrates in the Fifth Judicial District of Pennsylvania to refrain from setting cash bail for at least the remainder of the crisis. I also ask that you (5) release those with less than 6 months to serve on their sentence, so they, too, can be out of harm’s way.

According to a recent study, which used Allegheny County Jail as its example, “large scale reductions in arrest and rapid releases are likely to save the lives of incarcerated people, jail staff and the community at large. The model predicts, for a medium-sized U.S. city, the potential to save over 1500 lives over the course of the epidemic.

Protect our community and all of its members. Release our neighbors now.

Thursday 04/23 from 9 AM to 5PM

Call the jail administration and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald to demand all prisoners with COVID-19 symptoms get tested and placed in a single cell.

Numbers:

Warden Orlando Harper: 412-350-2000

County Executive Rich Fitzgerald: 412-350-6500

Fitzgerald’s fax number: 412-350-6512 (use https://faxzero.com)

ACJ Healthcare: 412-350-2201

Sample Script:

Hello, my name is ______. I am calling as a community member concerned about the spread of Covid-19 in Allegheny County Jail. I am asking that you switch from bleach to a non-toxic sanitation method (such as alcohol-based sanitizers), stop removing the sealing strips from N95 masks issued to prisoners, and most importantly move both medically-vulnerable individuals and all those with symptoms into a cell by themselves and have them tested for coronavirus. Remember, coronavirus among inmates will inevitably spread to jail employees and the rest of the community if it is not stopped.

Friday 04/24 from 9 AM to 5 PM

Call Pittsburgh police chief Scott Schubert, Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich, and Mayor Bill Peduto to demand that the Pittsburgh police stop arresting and jailing people for minor offenses.

Numbers:

Mayor Bill Peduto: (412) 255-2626

Police Chief Scott Schubert: 412-323-7897

Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich: 412-255-8615

Sample script:

Hello, my name is ______. I am calling as a community member concerned about the spread of Covid-19 in Allegheny County Jail. While the Courts have been working to release people, many . I am calling to ask you to refrain from arresting and booking individuals for all charges except major felonies.

According to a recent study, which used Allegheny County Jail as its example, “large scale reductions in arrest and rapid releases are likely to save the lives of incarcerated people, jail staff and the community at large. The model predicts, for a medium-sized U.S. city, the potential to save over 1500 lives over the course of the epidemic.”

Protect our community and all of its members. Issue a clear policy and stop arresting our neighbors now.

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