Our Commitment to Prisoners

March 17, 2020

In this global health crisis, prisoners are highly vulnerable and need our support more than ever.

Many of the prisoners who rely on JDI — and on people like you — are among those most at risk from the coronavirus pandemic. Severe health problems like HIV, diabetes, and heart disease are widespread behind bars; even under normal circumstances, prison medical care is barely able to handle the sick, and rapidly aging, inmate population.

Dwight is certainly vulnerable to complications from the coronavirus. A JDI Survivor Council member serving time in a Texas prison, Dwight recently suffered a heart attack. He spent four days in intensive care at a nearby hospital. “I am blessed to be alive,” he wrote us in a letter about his ordeal.

If Dwight lived in the community, he’d be advised to avoid large gatherings and practice good hygiene habits. Maybe he would self isolate. But these are not options for Dwight. When you’re trapped in an overcrowded building with people constantly coming and going, social distancing is nearly impossible. Nor can Dwight be expected to follow guidance around cleanliness. Many prisons are filthy, and soap is even harder to find behind bars than it is on the outside. Worse still, prisoners are prohibited from using hand sanitizer — even though they have been called on to make it.

JDI won’t ever abandon prisoners like Dwight. While our staff is working remotely, we are continuing to provide lifesaving support to prisoners. We’re still corresponding with scores of incarcerated survivors, sending them materials about their rights and how to heal. And we’re still fielding calls to our hotline daily from survivors incarcerated in Michigan and Vermont.

These services are a lifeline to prisoners. As Dwight once put it, “If it weren’t for JDI, I wouldn’t be alive.” But that’s not the full story. We can only help Dwight because of supporters like you. Thank you for standing with us, and with Dwight, during this difficult time.