URGENT: Over 3700 people are currently held in Philly jails.COVID-19 is still spreading rapidly across our city and through our jails. While many Philadelphians can shelter in place at home or limit their exposure to others, thousands of people can’t social distance or stay safe from the deadly coronavirus because they are trapped in the city’s jails.
Many are in jail simply because they do not have the money to pay bail, or are being detained on a charge of violating conditions of supervision on a previous conviction. Some are awaiting preliminary hearings that would ordinarily have led to their case being dismissed. Expediting the release of people held in jail is critical not only for the safety of those individuals, but for their families, their communities, and the staff at the jails who also face increased and unnecessary risk of exposure to COVID-19.
On Friday, March 27, the city announced that one employee of the Philadelphia Department of Prisons and one person incarcerated in a Philly jail had tested positive for coronavirus. By the following Friday, 31 incarcerated individuals had tested positive, and by Friday, April 24, a cumulative total of 156 individuals in jails had tested positive.
We need action to #FreeOurPeople now.
Join us in calling on Mayor Kenney, First Judicial District, and District Attorney Larry Krasner to act immediately to decarcerate the city’s jails and juvenile detention facilities.
There is no time to waste. Thanks to mounting pressure from our communities, the courts have started taking steps in the right direction, but we need mechanisms for massive decarceration now. Although the courts have sped up their processes for release, only about 43% of court petitions have even been granted, meaning the majority are being forced to remain at high risk inside the jails.
Join the Fight
- Join our action team to hear about upcoming actions
- Sign our petition to send a letter to Judge Fox
- Watch our #FreeOurPeople briefings every Tuesday and Thursday at 12pm
- Donate to the Bail Funds: Philadelphia Bail Fund and Philadelphia Community Bail Fund
Contact Mayor Kenney
We are demanding that Mayor Kenney:
Issue an Executive Order for the mass release of people from city jails during this public health emergency;
Call on the First Judicial District to immediately implement a process to allow mass release of people incarcerated in the city’s jails and juvenile detention centers, including:
Granting early release for all individuals serving a county sentence
Lifting all probation detainers, parole detainers and bench warrants
- Free all youth detained in the city’s youth facilities, whether awaiting trial, a violation of probation hearing, or a transfer to a placement
Ending the use of cash bail to detain people
Implementing immediate review process for all people currently in detention, including youth
- Prioritizing vulnerable people for release (including the elderly and those with critical medical needs and health concerns)
TWEET: @PhillyMayor using the hashtag #FreeOurPeople
See our TOOLKIT to download social media graphics, sample tweets, and call scripts: https://bit.ly/PPSsocialtoolkit
TWEET: @PhillyMayor using the hashtag #FreeOurPeopleSample tweets:
4300+ people are trapped in Philly’s jails. This is a massive public health disaster in the making. @PhillyMayor + @PhilaCourts must act NOW to release as many ppl as possible to protect incarcerated people, jail staff and our communities. #FreeOurPeople #DecarcerateNOW #COVID19
If rate of infection in @PhillyPrisons continues at its current rate, nearly half of the people in the city’s jails could have #COVID19 by April 11. @PhillyMayor: when is the time to show decisive leadership and take bold exec action to save thousands of lives in our jails? #FreeOurPeople
Los Angeles, New Jersey, Cleveland and Pittsburgh, and other cities and states across the country are taking major steps to decarcerate their jails to protect people from #COVID19. We need @PhillyMayor to take action NOW. #FreeOurPeople
.@PhillyMayor: While Pittsburgh has safely released almost 30% of its jail pop, it’s only a few percentage points in #Philly. Many ppl had court cancelled & aren’t having their cases reviewed. Are you happy with this progress? #FreeOurPeople
Cities across the country have taken drastic action to get people out of jail in the face of the #COVID19 crisis. Why is Philly so far behind? Demand @PhillyMayor + @PhilaCourts take action NOW to save lives and keep all our communities safe. #FreeOurPeople [Include % comparison graphic from social media toolkit]
We need massive decarceration of Philly jails to keep people safe during #COVID19. @PhilaCourts should parole ppl on county sentences, lift all detainers, and end the use of cash bail. We demand @PhillyMayor push them to act NOW before it’s too late. #FreeOurPeople
We’ve seen massive public health disasters in jails across the world. We need to act NOW so that we do not repeat the mistakes of others. @PhillyMayor how will you work to decarcerate our jails and prisons before life is lost? #FreeOurPeople
The avg. time spent in Philly jail is under 6 months. Current projections say #COVID-19 will peak in a couple weeks in PA, truly straining hospital capacity. Do you agree these next few weeks are most urgent in releasing anyone who doesn’t absolutely need to be there? #AsktheMayor #FreeOurPeople
@Phillybailout & @phillybailfund have bailed out 80-90 ppl over last 2 wks, but there are still 1,000+ who a judge said can be released if they had enough $$. In our poor city, ppl lost income & trials are cancelled. #FreeOurPeople
People behind prison walls are still a part of our communities, as are jail workers. We cannot sit by and let them die from #COVID19. Philly pastors invite you to learn more about how we can #FreeOurPeople and protect the most vulnerable.
In the words of MLK “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘What are you doing for others?” What are we doing to keep people who are incarcerated from dying of COVID-19? We have a responsibility. #FreeOurPeople
120+ youth are trapped in Philly’s juvenile detention center as #COVID19 spreads. This is a massive public health disaster in the making. We call on @PhillyMayor + @PhilaCourts to act NOW to release youth and keep our communities safe through this crisis. bit.ly/CovidCourts
More than 1/3 of youth trapped in Philadelphia’s Juvenile Justice Service Center during #COVID19 are identified as “medically fragile,” yet @PhilaCourts have failed to expedite release processes. @PhillyMayor must act NOW to bring kids home. #FreeOurPeople
More than ⅓ of youth in Philly’s juvenile detention center are identified as “medically fragile”. @MayorKenney + @PhilaCourts, what’s your plan for youth in your detention center who are highly vulnerable to #COVID19? #NoKidsinPrison #FreeOurPeople
The time is NOW to bring kids home from Philly’s Juvenile Justice Service Center! These youth are at risk during the #COVID19 crisis, and @PhilaCourts have failed to act quickly. @PhillyMayor, we urge you to act! #FreeOurPeople
Sample call script:
“Hi, my name is ________________, and I’m calling to ask the Mayor to do everything in his power to bring newly arrested and currently incarcerated people home during the coronavirus crisis.
There are over 4000 people in the city’s jails. This is a massive public health disaster in the making. The majority of people in the city’s jails are serving a short sentence, are held on a probation detainer, or are detained because they can’t afford to pay bail.
I am deeply concerned about the safety and wellbeing of people trapped in the jails, as well as their families, jail staff and lawyers.
Please act now to release as many people as possible before the coronavirus spreads even more. To keep all our communities safe and healthy, please bring people home now.”
Dear Mayor Kenney:
My name is _______, and I am asking you and the First Judicial District to act now to stop putting people in jail during the coronavirus crisis, and to release as many people as possible.
There are thousands of people in our jails who are at huge risk of catching the coronavirus in their facilities – without the tools for proper sanitation or the ability to distance themselves from others. Many are medically vulnerable. Expediting the release of people held in jail is critical not only for the safety of those individuals, but for their families, their communities, and the staff at the jails who also face increased risk of exposure to COVID-19.
We are asking you to take executive action to order the mass release of people from city jails during this public health emergency.
We are also asking you to use your platform as Mayor to put pressure on the First Judicial District to immediately implement a process to allow mass release of people incarcerated in the city’s jails and juvenile detention centers. This includes granting release for all individuals serving a county sentence, lifting all probation detainers, parole detainers and bench warrants, and ending the use of cash bail to detain people
Your actions could save thousands of lives in our jails, and millions of lives in our community. It is up to you to do everything in your power to protect ALL Philadelphia residents in the face of this threat.
Already contacted the Mayor? Please take a moment to contact the courts.
The First Judicial District Court is moving far too slowly to let people out: time is running out to save their lives – we must demand the courts act today.
Read the ACLU-PA’s letter to the First Judicial District urging the immediate end to the use of cash bail during the ongoing public health crisis.
Email Court Administrators
Email the head judges and administrators of the court – cut and paste these emails and this text into your email:
Dear First Judicial District Court Judges Fox, Dugan, and Tucker, and Court Administrators McSorely and Rapone:
My name is _______, and I am asking you and the entire First Judicial District to work now to stop putting people in jail during the coronavirus crisis, and to let as many people as possible come home from jail as can be released safely.
I am concerned that there are thousands of people in our jails who are at huge risk of catching the coronavirus in their facilities – with little ability to keep clean or to protect themselves or other incarcerated people. Many of them could be safely released into our communities. Many of them have deep health risks that put them at risk of death. Many are at risk of infecting prison, sheriff and court workers who come in and out of our courts every day.
Please move today to direct all court magistrates to stop setting bails for people accused of a crime, and to review the bails of all the people currently incarcerated. Please issue an order directing the release of everyone over 60 years old, all pregnant people, and everyone with a serious illness or medical condition that puts them at risk of this illness. Please assign an emergency judge, who sits every day, whether via video conference or in court, to hear parole petitions. Please expedite a process to immediately review and lift all probation and parole detainers. Please release youth held in juvenile detention centers and adult jails And grant furloughs for those people not eligible for parole or immediate release now.
Your actions could save thousands of lives in our jails, and millions of lives in our community. Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter in this time of crisis.
Thank you for bringing our most vulnerable people home during the coronavirus crisis.
Sponsored by the #No215Jail Coalition, Philadelphia Bail Fund, Philadelphia Community Bail Fund, Media Mobilizing Project, Youth Art and Self-Empowerment Project, Decarcerate PA, JustLeadershipUSA, Frontline Dads, and partner organizations.