Open Letter to Bishop Lewis Work Release

February 11, 2021

Bishop Lewis Work Release,

At our January Delegates Meeting, MLK Labor Delegates passed a resolution in solidarity with incarcerated workers who have been hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic. You can read the resolution in full here: http://mlklabor.org/resolutions/resolution-on-solidarity-with-incarcerated-workers/

This resolution was in response to serious concerns around the recent COVID-19 outbreak at Bishop Lewis Work Release facility, where allegedly 35 out of 49 residents tested positive for the virus. There have been other serious outbreaks at Washington Department of Corrections facilities since the beginning of the pandemic.

The labor movement is concerned that there is a pattern of systemic neglect and disregard for the health and safety of those in custody at the DOC. At Bishop Lewis as well as other DOC outbreaks, there are allegations of failures to meet basic CDC safety protocols, including inadequate PPE and inability to socially distance. Even more troubling, there are allegations of retaliation against whistleblowers and a lack of transparency with people in custody and their family.

These allegations should be thoroughly investigated by an independent body and, if found to be true, must be corrected through the following actions:

  1. The release of all residents at Bishop Lewis to their homes and support with quarantine needs, when necessary, until the end of the COVID emergency.
  2. Compensation of lost wages for those on work release who are unable to work.
  3. Suspension of rental payments for all Bishop Lewis residents.
  4. Full transparency and communication to family members around COVID-19 measures.
  5. An Investigation and monitoring by external Public Health experts on DOC’s adherence to COVID-19 guidelines.
  6. Compensation for the emotional, mental distress caused to Bishop Lewis residents.
  7. No retaliation against any Bishop Lewis residents or others in DOC custody.

Signed,

MLK Labor