#SHUTDOWNDC #DEFUNDTHEPRISONS #FREETHEMALL
In this time of Black insurrectionary uprising, we call for the freedom of our Black loved ones, neighbors, and friends who are still trapped behind bars. They are held with no court dates in sight, in horrific conditions, locked down over 23 hours a day, unable to protect themselves from COVID-19 or to be home with their families during this crisis.
There are currently around 3,900 people in the Philly jails. They are there because of the Philadelphia Police Department, The District Attorney’s Office, and the First Judicial District. Many are being held ransom on bails they can’t afford thanks to District Attorney Larry Krasner, who has failed to live up to his campaign promise to end cash bail.. The vast majority of people imprisoned in Philadelphia are Black and from communities which have been over-policed and under-resourced for generations.
Philadelphia’s largest budget expenditures are for policing, prosecution, courts, and jails. We will not stand by as our city pours hundreds of millions of dollars into cops and cages, while our people suffer from cuts to the essential resources we all need and deserve. As our movements in the streets cry out to #DefundThePolice, we demand that Philadelphia also #DefundThePrisons, #DefundTheDA, #EndCashBail and pretrial detention, dismantle all forms of carceral punishment, and invest in our communities.
The number of people in Philly’s jails has dropped by half in the last 5 years as a result of Philadelphia community organizers’ tireless work, yet the Mayor and City Council are still conspiring to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on policing and prisons during a pandemic. When we closed one of Philly’s five jails - the House of Corrections (HOC) - it lowered the number of people arrested and made Philadelphia a safer city. Now Philly is trying to re-open the HOC. The Mayor must now order HOC demolished so that it can never be used to torture and kill Black and Brown Philadelphians again.
But the city cannot stop there. The Detention Center (DC) is another Philadelphia jail that must be immediately closed and demolished. DC is almost 60 years old and in disrepair, subjecting people incarcerated there to horrific living conditions. It is the only jail facility that still cages over 30 people together crammed in “dormitory” cells, which makes social distancing impossible and has left people extremely vulnerable in this global pandemic. During this COVID-19 crisis, people incarcerated at DC have been locked in cells 23+ hours a day without soap, cleaning supplies, proper masks, or quality food. When the city finally tested everyone in the city’s jails for COVID-19, more than 1 in 5 people detained at DC tested positive for the virus, far above the positive rates in the city’s other jails. DC also houses the “behavioral health unit,” where people suffering from mental illness are isolated, stigmatized, forced to strip publicly each day, and denied visits. People with mental illness should be home and supported with the mental health care they need, not locked in cages and assaulted. Philadelphia’s City Council and Mayor must divest from prisons and invest in non-coercive and holistic community care resources!
Thanks to community pressure, and the work of both the Philadelphia Community Bail Fund and the Philadelphia Bail Fund, over 1,300 people got free in the past few months and the number of people in Philly’s jails dropped below 4000 for the first time in a generation. But we cannot celebrate until everyone is home and safe with their families and communities. We demand the City of Philadelphia immediately shut down and demolish the Detention Center, free all people incarcerated there, cut the city’s policing and incarceration budget, and invest in Black communities instead.
We need to end funding of policing, prosecuting and prisons. Defunding the policing and punishment systems in the City of Philadelphia are the single biggest way that the city can reduce violence and harm. In Mayor Kenney’s current proposed budget, the city is spending $760 million on police and $1.2 billion on the whole criminal justice system, while only spending around $130 million on human services. We are not only demanding divestment; we are also demanding investment of hundreds of millions more dollars in schools, housing, mental health treatment, harm reduction, and other things our communities need to actually be safe, healthy, and free. It is time to close another of Philadelphia’s jails - the Detention Center - and reinvest that money in communities that have been disinvested from for generations.
The Philadelphia budget is up for debate right now. Tell Mayor Kenney and City Council: show us that #BlackLivesMatter by Shutting Down the Detention Center!