"Where We Stand," Jan.5 2020

1/05/2021 by Katie Powers

Every day, the Commissary Club community engages in important conversations about the issues that matter most to us. Each week, we’ll highlight our community members’ voices as they respond to issues surrounding criminal justice, prison reform, reentry, and more, across the internet.

Georgia Senate Runoff

On Tuesday, January 5th, Georgia voters will take to the polls to vote in runoff elections for the U.S Senate, determining which party controls the chamber. Incumbent Republicans Sen. David Perdue and Sen. Kelly Loeffler will face Democratic challengers Jon Ossof and Rev. Raphael Warnock in respective races.

The balance of power in the U.S senate has important implications for criminal justice, prison reform, and COVID-19 economic relief. Additionally, by having a Democratic majority, President-Elect Joe Biden could enact a more progressive agenda during the first half of his term.

Friends of Commissary Club took to social media to share their thoughts on the stakes of the election and concerns over disenfranchisement within the state.

Glenn E. Martin

Billy Michael Honor

Covid-19 in Prisons and Jails

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to surge across the country, people in prisons and jails continue to feel its impact. According to a report from The Marshall Project, 1 in 5 state and federal prisoners have tested positive for Covid-19 over the course of the pandemic, a rate that’s more than four times higher than the general population.

But while the Federal Bureau of Prisons originally intended to prioritize prison staff in its vaccinations plans, many states have made strides to include incarcerated people in their vaccinations plans. In Illinois, state prisoners have been added to prioritization group 1b, behind healthcare workers, and in Massachusetts, incarcerated people are set to be vaccinated by the end of February. Additionally, many states have also granted clemency to incarcerated people to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Still, incarcerated people face insurmountable safety challenges in light of the pandemic. Mourning Our Losses released an extensive toolkit outlining several local campaigns in different states across the country, seeking to encourage leaders to reduce their state prison populations.

Friends of Commissary Club took to social media to discuss the current state of COVID-19 in prisons including vaccine distribution, safety conditions, and the long road still ahead in protecting incarcerated people from the pandemic.

Adnan Khan

Joanne DeCaro

Kelly M Hayes

Dustin Higgs and Lisa Montgomery

On January 15th, the Department of Justice is set to execute Dustin Higgs, a man convicted of killing three women in 1996 and sentenced to death, despite not being the one to pull the trigger.

As of Tuesday, Jan.5th, over 350,000 people have signed a petition from The Action Network pleading for the Department of Justice to commute Higgs’ sentence and spare his life.

Higgs’ execution would occur a little over a month following that of Brandon Bernard, who was sentenced to death on accomplice charges when he was only 18 years old. Despite receiving an outcry of public support and demands to commute his sentence, Bernard was executed on December 11th, 2020.

The execution of Lisa Montgomery, the first woman on death row in decades, is also set to occur in the coming days.

The unprecedented number of federal executions has been widely criticized as a power grab by the Trump Administration since, according to a report from Slate, every lame-duck administration since 1989 has halted the death penalty during the transition of power.

Friends of Commissary Club took to social media to express support for Higgs and denounce Donald Trump and the Department of Justice’s actions.

Adnan Khan

The Death Row Soul Collective

Stop the Executions

What are your thoughts on these issues? How can Commissary Club work to address them? Join the conversation at www.commissary.club, the exclusive social network for people with criminal records and follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn. We can’t wait to hear from yo