By Mark Smith, Oconto
Stores out of numerous products. Churches and schools closed. Yet nationwide, there are a million+ people stuck in jails today, many only because they can’t afford bail. Another million+ are in prisons. Add in caged immigrants and asylum seekers. 10 million+ American citizens cycle through revolving-door jails every year, bringing big money to government and business. This is unsustainable, particularly in a world preoccupied by the worst pandemic since 1918.
These caged prisoners cannot self-isolate. Basic hygiene is limited. Proper soap, water, disinfectant, and medical care are often unavailable. Institutional food with inadequate nutrition is daily fare for this captive group with generally poor health. Prisons and jails are notorious for spreading disease due to close proximity and poor conditions.
Wisconsin has some of the highest incarceration rates in the country and just recently, efforts were made to lock up even more people in a 21st century where no one, let alone American citizens, should be in overcrowded cages anywhere. Into this environment comes COVID-19.
It is time for compassionate release of and expedited parole hearings for the elderly, the infirm, and the nonviolent with ridiculously long sentences. Nonviolent individuals not found guilty of anything except being poor should not be jailed, period.
For the few incorrigibly violent, we need ready access to free communication methods, news sources, no-fee financial accounts, profit-free items, and fully-staffed, proper medical care with waived copays. Basically, we need to treat others as we would treat ourselves.
What would Jesus do?