The rally comes days after health officials announced the first positive cases of COVID-19 in both the Philadelphia Department of Prisons and the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.
Speaking on behalf of a coalition of groups, like Black Lives Matter, Decarcerate PA, and Frontline Dads, Fornari is calling for lawmakers and other officials to free low-risk juveniles and medically vulnerable inmates, as well as those held pretrial on cash bail.
“It’s extremely dangerous for everyone inside that jail,” they added. “They are in close quarters. They are not able to access medical care. They are not properly able to quarantine.”
On Friday, the Philadelphia Department of Prisons identified two positive COVID-19 cases. On Sunday, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections announced its first case of the coronavirus. By Monday, the corrections secretary implemented a system-wide quarantine to stop the spread of the disease.
On Monday, the Defender Association of Philadelphia sent a letter recommending that the District Attorney’s Office, the First Judicial District and the Defender Association should agree on the release of certain categories of incarcerated individuals in order to swiftly and safely reduce the county's prison population.
“The process that we have now is not conducive to significant reductions in the prison system,” said Keir Bradford-Grey, chief of the Defender Association. “But without an agreement on who we’re prioritizing for release, we’re going to continue this dangerously slow, case-by-case process of evaluating who should or should not be released. We simply don’t have the time for that.”
In recent days, prison reform advocates have criticized the slow-paced process that the courts and other offices are using to determine which, if any, inmates should be released amid the crisis.
In New York prisons, infection rates for COVID-19 were seven times the general public.