Weekend Protests Planned at County Jails in Central New York

by Love and Rage Team

Prisoner justice and abolitionist activists are staging rallies across New York State on December 12 and 13 to demand county governments and the state government take drastic action to address mass incarceration and the rapid spread of Covid-19 in the prison system.

Activists in Cortland and Binghamton have rallies planned on Saturday at the jails in their respective counties, and Utica and Rome activists have one planned for Sunday at Oneida County Jail.

The organizers of what will be a closed car rally outside Broome County Jail released the following statement about the event:

The dire predictions of activists and health experts have come true. The Broome County Jail, for the second time this year, is a COVID-19 hot spot. This was anticipated. Yet county officials did little to prevent or mitigate outbreaks. 

After initially denying the outbreak’s significance, county leaders have been forced to acknowledge the outbreak’s severity. Little other information has been provided to the community or incarcerated people. No hard numbers of cases or tests conducted have been offered. 

A few things are clear: pods throughout the jail are on lock-down, transfers to programs and state facilities are suspended, incarcerated people’s access to communications are limited, and court actions are even slower than usual. The vast majority of persons in the jail are convicted of nothing, lingering there on minor charges or technical parole/probation charges. There is no programming, no consistent medical/sanitation care, and almost everyone is in unsanitary solitary conditions. COs routinely refuse to wear masks. People in the Broome County Jail are not just incarcerated, they are trapped and forced to catch COVID. 

These conditions are endemic across the New York system of county jails. Activists from Utica, Rome and Cortland planning the protests are calling for the following demands:

1. Immediately release:- the elderly and those at risk for COVID-19- remand prisoners (those who are denied or unable to post bail)- those in jail due to parole violations- those with mental illnesses and addictions- unhoused people (and provide them with resources to improve their circumstances)

2. Provide adequate PPE to everyone in the jail

3. Reinstate the bail reform that was rolled back in July- Eliminate all forms of cash bail for nonviolent crimes- Require prosecutors to turn over to defendants all evidence against them within 15 days of arrest

4. Withdraw all 10 legislative proposals submitted by the New York State Sheriff’s Association in July

5. Defund the Sheriff’s Office by 50% and redistribute the funds to community services selected by a community council that is run by local organizations

Many of the organizations and activists planning the protests are part of a broad coalition of progressive, left wing, student, prisoner justice, Black Lives Matter, and prison and police abolitionist groups. The activists have plans for future protests, actions, and organizing campaigns to address the compounding crises of mass incarceration, racism, and the Covid-19 pandemic.

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