An open letter we sent to public officials in April 2020 about releasing our ‘ohana from prison and jail during the COVID-19 pandemic.April 9, 2020
People in prisons and jails are highly vulnerable to outbreaks of contagious illnesses like coronavirus. They are packed together in close quarters with little control over their daily interactions with others, and are often in poor health. Join ʻEkolu Mea Nui, the Emergency Reentry Project, the Community Alliance on Prisons, Hawai`i Health and Harm Reduction Center, and the Smart Justice campaign at ACLU Hawai`i for a collaborative social media campaign in Hawai`i.
Post on Social Media
Urge your networks to call on key decision makers for action! Dowload the images linked below and include them in a social media post.
URGENT: Call Governor David Ige on behalf of thousands of incarcerated who are vulnerable to #COVID19. Prisons & jails are no place to quarantine or protect people from this pandemic. Tell them to #FreeOurOhana #ClemencyCoast2Coast
Call Governor Ige
Mass incarceration has destroyed families, deepened racial injustice, and wasted resources that could have been spent investing in local communities, all without making our neighborhoods safer. The legacy of mass incarceration is that hundreds of medically vulnerable and elderly prisoners pose no threat to public safety, but face a serious risk of dying of COVID-19 in Hawaii’s prisons and jails.
It’s a public health catastrophe – and we need your help to stop it. A prison sentence should not be a death sentence.
Governor Ige has the power to release at-risk incarcerated people and save lives behind bars. Can you call his office today and leave a message at 808-586-0255?
The more of us who call, the more public pressure we build to push Governor Ige to do the right thing.
Call Governor Ige
Governor’s Office, Front Desk: (808) 586-0255
Hi, my name is [YOUR NAME] and I live in [YOUR CITY OR TOWN]
As a constituent, I’m deeply concerned that there are hundreds of medically vulnerable and elderly people incarcerated in Hawaii's overcrowded, unsafe prisons.
I’m calling to urge Governor Polis to exercise his clemency and commutation powers to save lives behind bars. A prison sentence should not be a death sentence.
Share a Personal Message
Post a photo of yourself to Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, holding a sign with a personal message. Urge your friends and colleagues to join you!
Below is a sample text and image, and instructions on who to tag in your post.
TAKE ACTION: I am joining the movement to call on @GovHawaii @LtGovJoshGreen @HawaiiPSD, and the Attorney General to grant #ClemencyNow & #FreeOurOhana. #LetThemGo to prevent a public health disaster! Protect our pa’ahao & PROTECT OUR COMMUNITIES! #FreeOurOhana #ClemencyCoast2Coast
- Tag: @GovHawaii @LtGovJoshGreen and @HawaiiPSD
- Hashtag: #FreeOurOhana #LetThemGo #ClemencyCoast2Coast #FreeHer
- Upload pic holding sign saying some version of “Gov Ige: #LetThemGo #FreeOurOhana
- Tag @ACLUHawaii in picture
Add Your Name
We originally sent a letter to Governor David Ige, Attorney General Clare Connors, Honorable County Prosecutors, and Public Safety Director Nolan Espinda on April 9, 2020 warning them of a potential outbreak and urging them to take immediate action. We asked to drastically reduce the number of people in Hawaii's jails and prisons, starting with releasing the most vulnerable to serious illness or death, like kūpuna and the immunocompromised, and those simply sitting in jail because they cannot afford bail. We also asked that during the pandemic, incarcerated people have mental health support, free phone calls and access to sanitation products.
Now that what we feared has happened and there is an outbreak, we are resending it to public officials and need your help. There's too much on the line to wait. Please act now and, together, we can save lives.
Letters to the Editor
Letters to the editor are great advocacy tools. After you write letters to elected officials, sending letters to the editor can achieve other advocacy goals because they:
- Reach a large audience.
- Are often monitored by elected officials.
- Can bring up information not addressed in a news article.
- Create an impression of widespread support for or opposition to an issue.
Keep it short and on one subject. Many newspapers have strict limits on the length of letters and have limited space to publish them. Keeping your letter brief will help assure that your important points are not cut out by the newspaper.
Make it personal. Share why #FreeOurOhana matters to you. Do you have an incarcerated loved one? Why do you care about people inside of Hawaii's prisons and jails?
Make a demand. Call on authorities to dramatically reduce its incarcerated population, limit new admissions into jails and prisons, take active steps to reduce the risk to any individuals who remain incarcerated, and make all plans regarding the management of COVID-19 in jails and prisons available to the public.
Make it legible. Your letter doesn't have to be fancy, but you should use a typewriter or computer word processor if your handwriting is difficult to read.
Send letters to weekly community newspapers, too. The smaller the newspaper's circulation, the easier it is to get your letter printed.
Be sure to include your contact information. Many newspapers will print a letter to the editor only after calling the author to verify his or her identity and address. Newspapers will not give out that information, and will usually print only your name and city should your letter be published.
Make references to the newspaper. While some papers print general commentary, many will only print letters that refer to a specific article. Here are some examples of easy ways to refer to articles in your opening sentence:
- I was disappointed to see that The Post's May 18 editorial "COVID-19 Behind Bars" omitted some of the key facts in the debate.
- I strongly disagree with (author's name) narrow view on mass incarceration. ("Name of Op-Ed," date)
- I am deeply saddened to read that Congressman Doe is working to build a new jail facility. ("Title of Article," date)