AUSTIN — On Saturday, family members of people incarcerated in Texas prisons will demonstrate in front of Governor Greg Abbott’s mansion to draw attention to the growing COVID-19 crisis in Texas prisons.
Demonstrators will call on Gov. Abbott and the Board of Pardon and Paroles to use their authority to release incarcerated people from Texas prisons who are at the tail end of their prison sentences and are already parole-eligible or parole-approved.
One of the organizers of the rally, Lovinah Igbani of Families for Change in TDCJ, spoke about how incarcerated individuals felt voiceless. “We should all stand together, because all lives have equal value, whether they're in prison or the free world.”
Who: Families and loved ones of people incarcerated in Texas prisons
What: Visual, socially distanced demonstration on behalf of incarcerated loved ones
When: Saturday, May 23, 1pm.
Where: Governor’s Mansion, 1010 Colorado St, Austin, TX, 78701
Last month, a coalition of organizations representing formerly incarcerated people, prisoners’ families, and criminal legal reform groups called on Gov. Abbott and the Board of Pardons and Parole to release incarcerated people who are at the tail end of their sentences. There are currently 77,000 people in custody of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice who have completed their minimum sentences are eligible for parole.
"By releasing those who are eligible for parole, broken families can be restored and inmates will have the opportunity to contribute to the economy, and be an asset to their community," said Nia Trent-Jones, one of the organizers of the rally with Families for Change in TDCJ.
According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, at least 2214 Texas prisoners have contracted COVID-19 and 32 have already died of the disease. At least 742 TDCJ staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 with 7 employees who have died of COVID-19.
"The criminal justice system has been sorely in need of reform for quite some time now, this pandemic has brought this issue to the forefront. Nobody wants to get the phone call that their loved one is one who passed away that day," said Lauren Byrd-Moreno, another of the organizers of the rally.