Hamilton: Outbreak Coverup at the Barton Jail

Submission to North Shore Counter-Info from the Barton Prisoner Solidarity Project.

As of November 28th, we’ve received reports from multiple sources that the administration is trying to cover up at least 2 new cases of COVID-19 among staff at the Barton Jail. Management is outright denying to both prisoners and staff that there are new positive cases, while at the same time introducing new policies in response to the outbreak.

The changes include a new policy that prisoners are now required to wear a mask whenever leaving their range. Most infuriatingly, they have once again lost access to all visits, which were won back through a hard-fought struggle this summer. This is especially upsetting as we approach the holidays, when it can be extra hard to be apart from loved ones. In “compensation”, management has raised the canteen limit from $60 to $90,which they did as well in the spring when a staff person tested positive. This disregards the fact that the only free way for prisoners to have money added to their canteen fund is when it is dropped off through in-person visits. Prisoners are left without any accurate information and are scared about the spread of the virus through the prison.

We have also heard that the guards disagree with the admin’s choice to deny the outbreak. However, in any conflict between guards and management over safety, the prisoners will pay the price. Past disputes have caused long lockdowns and sharply worse conditions for prisoners. Unless the guards change their position and push for mass release of incarcerated people, we can’t rely on their actions to improve things.

We demand transparency from Barton Jail about the outbreak, and for all prisoners being held on remand to be immediately released so they are not forced to be exposed to the virus. We also demand the reinstitution of visits — cancelling visits does nothing to protect prisoners since they are held through glass and only adds to their isolation.

Details about a solidarity rally coming soon, check back in the coming days.

Prisoners are taking a serious risk by speaking out and breaking the admin’s wall of silence. By amplifying their voices we can help keep them safe while also forcing meaningful action.