A ‘funeral’ for NJ inmates who died of COVID-19

A funeral procession circled the Trenton War Memorial where the governor holds his daily COVID-19 briefings. The goal: to memorialize the 45 inmates who died of COVID-19 in state prisons.

“Gov. Murphy, why did you ignore the warnings of the CDC concerning the spread of the virus throughout the New Jersey Department of Corrections?” said Trena Parker.

Parker’s brother, Darrell, died on April 23 behind bars. He had served 29 years of a 100-year sentence for murder. Darrell was 62 with diabetes and high blood pressure.

“The more you think about it, the things that happened, they didn’t nee to happen knowing that he was vulnerable, he had medical records,” she said.

Salvation and Social Justice, the Latino Action Network and families of inmates staged the #SayTheirNames funeral. They say while the governor has profiled coronavirus victims at his daily briefings, he hasn’t mentioned any of the inmates. They accuse of him promises and policies that fall short of protecting vulnerable prisoners and furloughing just 100 of them so far. But, more than 400 have been released.

“Two months ago we gave Gov. Murphy a chance with a long list of thing that he could do,” said J. Amos Caley, coalition organizer of the NJ Campaign For Alternatives To Isolated Confinement.”He abjectly ignored almost all of those things, and the thing that he decided to do was completely ineffective. This furlough was supposed to release almost 3,000 people.”

“Governor, shame on you and your advice. Instead of taking responsibility and trying to do better, your advisors have chosen to diminish the gravity of the situation by only saying it’s 42 instead of 11,000,” said Rev. Charles Boyer, the founder of Salvation and Social Justice.

The funeral procession included dozens of vehicles and drivers who came to support the cause.

“I’ve know about the inequities in the justice system for black and brown people in this country for a long time and this COVID situation highlights it,” said South Orange resident Alison Weir.

The funeral came to end as Murphy was about to give daily briefing. What does he have to say?

“It allowed for the eligibility of a certain number of people to be released, subject to a comprehensive review including, among other things, where were they going when they got out. Did they have housing, did they have sustenance? I mourn the loss of every single life in this state. Period, full stop,” Murphy said.

Names in red signify those awaiting potential furlough. One mother urged the governor to act to release her asthmatic, COVID 18-year-old son and others.

“Governor, I’m here today standing, asking, begging, pleading you as a mother. You need to do better by these kids that are locked up behind this wall,” said Quadnesha Seph.

A funeral staged to remember COVID inmates who died in state custody and to call on the governor to do more so less of this will happen.