A People’s Tribunal: COVID-19 and the Crisis of Death by Incarceration

On June 4, 2020, BPI joined Parole Illinois, Chicago Torture Justice Center, Chicago Votes, and Mothers Activating Movements for Abolition & Solidarity (MAMAS) in co-sponsoring “A People’s Tribunal: COVID-19 and the Crisis of Death by Incarceration.” More than 250 participants, including legislators, other elected officials, and concerned stakeholders, joined in this Zoom webinar. Sixteen speakers, including impacted individuals, advocates, and politicians powerfully addressed the effects of long-term incarceration and called for an end to racist state violence.

COVID-19 illuminated the overcrowded conditions in US prisons and the murder of George Floyd exposed the ongoing brutality of state-sanctioned violence. Just as police officers stood there and did nothing as they watched another officer kill someone, many public officials show utter disregard for humanity as they watch people die in prison under the yoke of oppressively harsh sentencing.

As protests have erupted across the country against the police killings of Black people, we must not forget those inside prison, the destination for many victims of racist policing. This event was just one way in which we hope to uplift their voices and center their needs in our quest for reform.

We are grateful for the participation of legislators, such as Sen. Celina Villanueva, Sen. Robert Peters, and Rep. La Shawn Ford, who spoke at the People’s Tribunal. We are also grateful to Rep. Kelly Cassidy, Rep. Lindsey LaPointe, Rep. Will Guzzardi, Sen. Christopher Belt, and Sen. Scott Bennett for their attendance and show of solidarity.

View the entire webinar below and watch select testimonies in this Youtube playlist.

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