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UPDATE as of 12:13 PM ET, September 1, 2021
Kentucky Department of Corrections Commissioner Cookie Crews said power was restored last night. We are working to confirm this and ensure all other issues have been resolved, including access to clean water, refrigeration, air conditioning, access to counsel, and family visitation. In less than 24 hours you sent nearly 300 emails to Governor Andy Beshear! Thank you for keeping the pressure up and pushing this issue to the front. Follow @ACLUofKY on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates.
When the state chooses to incarcerate a person, it takes on the responsibility of caring for that person and ensuring they are safe and healthy. These incarcerated Kentuckians were sentenced to serve time, not physical harm or death. They deserve a safe place to live. We cannot forget them and the families and communities waiting for them to return home.
The Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women lost power on Thursday, August 26, 2021. Kentuckians incarcerated at KCIW have been forced to live without air conditioning, clean water, or refrigeration during one of the hottest parts of the year. The power outage has also cut off access to counsel and caused officials to suspend family visitation.
The slow response to this emergency is one more point in a long and disturbing trend of DOC refusing to take appropriate actions in a timely manner to ensure the safety of the Kentuckians who live and work in prisons. For instance, DOC took several months to provide personal protective equipment and sanitization products at the beginning of the pandemic. They are now allowing many prisons to continue what is effectively universal solitary confinement despite having a better understanding of how the coronavirus spreads and the resources to safely restart some programs, such as family visitation.
ADDITIONAL STRESS TO HEALTHCARE SYSTEMS:
It is particularly irresponsible to force these Kentuckians to live in dangerous conditions when our healthcare systems are overwhelmed. The risk facing incarcerated people and corrections employees will grow exponentially if they require medical attention due to complications from extreme heat and/or dehydration. They could then be exposed to the coronavirus in a healthcare facility or receive inadequate care due to strained resources.
HOW CAN IT BE FIXED:
The solution rests with Governor Beshear, his administration, and lawmakers.
Unfortunately, the courts have developed a legal standard that is incredibly difficult to overcome, particularly in situations like these where the issue appears to be temporary. Prisons around the country sometimes force people to live in extreme cold or heat in the absence of legal remedies. The only hope for a timely fix to this situation is for the state lawmakers and executive branch officials to act NOW.
The Governor and lawmakers must work with corrections officials to fix this issue as soon as possible to ensure all people incarcerated at KCIW have a safe place to live until it is fully resolved.
Click here to read more about this via WFPL News Louisville.