BY ISN STAFF | May 21, 2020

The Ignatian Solidarity Network has joined Very Reverend Timothy P. Kesicki, S.J., president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, along with five United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ committee chairmen, prominent men and women religious, and national lay leaders representing key Catholic organizations as signatories on a joint letter in response to the devastating impacts of the coronavirus pandemic within U.S. prisons, jails, and detention and reentry centers.

The Statement of Solidarity: A Catholic Response to COVID-19 Behind Bars conveys a clear message of unity with “currently and formerly incarcerated and detained individuals, their loved ones, as well as those who are charged with their care and well-being.” It urges political leaders to “make all efforts to ensure the health, safety, and spiritual well-being of those inside, including correctional and detention staff.” Additional organizations and individuals are invited to sign on.

Catholic, COVID-19, criminal justice

“The challenges brought by COVID-19 are unprecedented. We came together as a Catholic community to voice our collective solidarity with individuals living and working behind bars who are suffering from the coronavirus pandemic in wholly unique ways,” said Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, executive director of Catholic Mobilizing Network and among the statement’s 14 original signers.

Reports show that more than 25,000 incarcerated or detained individuals and facility staff have tested positive for COVID-19 as of May 13, 2020; at least 370 have died. The risk of infection in prisons, jails, and detention centers outpaces that of the general population, in part due to under-resourced medical facilities and limited capacity for isolation inside.

The Statement of Solidarity calls attention to these disparities and offers Pope Francis’ reminder that “there are no ‘throwaway lives.’”

“We cannot simply stand by when experiencing COVID-19 behind bars could, for some, mean a de facto death sentence,” said Vaillancourt Murphy. “Preserving the health and dignity of incarcerated and detained people must not be forgotten.”

For more perspectives on criminal justice and COVID-19, view recordings from recent live broadcasts from ISN, including Criminal Justice Amid COVID-19 and virtual Solidarity on Tap gatherings featuring Fr. Greg Boyle, S.J., and Sr. Helen Prejean, C.S.J.

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