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  • Writer's pictureL.A. McCrae

Open Letter to Governor Larry Hogan 4 23 20

23 April 2020

Attn: Governor Larry Hogan

“Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.” James A. Baldwin

First and foremost, thank you for your efforts and leadership during this coronavirus pandemic. Your clear, decisive, and compassionate state and national leadership is most needed in these times.

Governor Hogan, I am writing you this evening to call your attention to the public health crisis unfolding at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women in Jessup, Maryland. As know, it is highly suspected that several inmates have been exposed to the coronavirus. In fact, it has been recently shared by inmates at the facility that there are women who are currently sick and others have several inmates have already tested positive. All of these inmates at this facility, and across the state, must be released immediately. Their lives are sacred, just as sacred as you and I. Their lives are at stake, Governor, and you can hold the key to the liberation. You can provide life, in this moment, now.

The inmates at Jessup are being expected to go to work to make masks and gowns for hospital nurses without using masks and gloves themselves. Governor Hogan, this is inhumane. This cannot be tolerated. Not only is this inhumane, statistically, some of these woman are asymptomatic or presymptomatic and carrying, unknowingly, the novel coronavirus on these prison produced products. This must end immediately. We must compassionately care for all people. Governor Hogan, we can no longer use the labor of incarcerated people. For anything. Ever. Exploitation is the enemy of healing. We must fearlessly engage in the work of healing and liberation as fearlessly as you have led our State.

I received a letter from an inmate at the women’s facility in Jessup. Her letter details the conditions, which, are shameful. They have been completely disconnected from any source of connection that is life-giving, life-affirming, and life-nourishing while in cages. They are not permitted to eat, socialize, or come out of cells for longer than 1 hour, ten at a time (as of 14 April 2020). Needless to say, their constitutional rights are being violated. Their incarceration and detention during the national pandemic, under these conditions, is cruel and unusual punishment. They must be released now. Immediately. Without question. Keeping these women under these conditions is unacceptable. We are better than this, as Marylanders, as people.

Across the country, we see instances of prison outbreaks. Governor, you have led our state and this nation in our coronavirus response. I encourage you to use this moment to lead from a place of compassion and release these prisoners. We all know the perils of waiting too long and the lives that are at risk.

Governor, I am fearful that if you do not act now, compassionately and swiftly, and participate in this project of healing and liberation, my friend and others will be exposed and potentially perished. She is a part of the vulnerable population with underlying medical conditions. She is already disconnected from her children and family. The additional stress and psychological terror of being locked in a cage while virus looms are unfathomable, Governor. This current situation creates complex trauma and dis-ease. Governor, if your inaction continues, you are responsible for the infections and death that occur at the facility in Jessup. If my friend is exposed and dies, I plan to hold you responsible. I am begging you to release the prisoners immediately.

We are called to be practitioners of justice-making, vessels of compassion and healing, and active in the project of liberation. I believe in the Great Believing that is the Breath of Life that connects you, to me, to the correctional officers, to the inmates. I believe in the Great Believing that will make a Way out of no way and a believer of non-believers. Governor, I believe in that Great Believing that is the hope for our people. And I believe in you. I believe that you can and will participate in liberation, immediately.

Thank you, Governor, for your continued calm and steady leadership. It is my sincerest hope and prayer that your heart may be strangely moved upon reading this letter.

With deepest empathy for the decision ahead of you, Rev. L.A. McCrae, M.Div.

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