To the editor:
Our nation’s most susceptible population includes those behind bars and their inaccessibility to healthcare. Equal Justice Initiative says incarcerated people are infected by COVID-19 more than 5 times higher than the nation’s overall rate. FCI Fort Dix inmates have the second highest number of active cases in the U.S. As of October 30, the low-security prison in New Jersey had 165 inmates test positive for coronavirus. Speaking up about the prison’s conditions is Jorge Cornell, former Greensboro resident and infamous leader of the NC chapter of Latin Kings. Sentenced to 28 years in 2013 for his involvement in racketeering, Cornell was recently transferred to Fort Dix in hopes that his appeal be granted, securing his release and away from the threat of COVID-19. Cornell, already having served seven years, reached out to his closest associates in a heartfelt message, pleading that they contact local congressmen; he writes, “I am in a unit with 3 floors and 1 officer. The first floor has 6 people with Covid. […] We are on the 3rd floor where the same officer is coming up […] putting my life in danger along with 58 others.” As someone vulnerable to the virus, he has no access to health care and needs our help. Court documents released in April 2020 revealed Fort Dix Warden David Ortiz acknowledging: “Social distancing is not possible in this environment.” Due to Fort Dix’s lack of empathy and resources for their inmates, it’s urgent that we reach out to local legislators to take action. Inmates like Cornell, housed in minimum-security prisons, should be considered for early release measures or granted appeals. Where their safety is not prioritized, our congressmen should do the right thing and push for initiatives to help reintegrate these members of society. NC Senators Richard Burr, Thom Tillis can be reached: (202) 224-3154, (202) 224-6342.