MARION, Ohio (WCMH) — Dozens of protestors stood outside Marion Correctional Facility Saturday holding signs to show support for their loved ones inside.
“I’m here fighting for my son’s life,” said Sabrina White, whose son, Richard Williams, has been incarcerated at Marion for over a year now. He has four more years left on his sentence.
As White held her hot pink sign with the words, “Not a death sentence” emblazoned in black marker, one of her fellow protestors shouted over a loud speaker, “It’s a human rights issue!” The crowd voiced their agreement, as a cell phone rang. It was White’s son from inside the prison saying he could see them and feel their support.
“He said thank you. Thank you so much for helping us. We see you. We need you. We don’t want to die in here,” White said.
That was the theme of the protest: incarceration should not be a death sentence.
“Inmates have rights,” said Lakiesha Smith, who organized the protest. “No matter what they’ve done they don’t want to die here and they don’t deserve to die.”
Smith is a prisoner advocate. After spending time in prison years ago, she is now dedicated to helping inmates turn their lives around. As the coronavirus has escalated in the prison system, Smith’s has risen her voice for those who can’t.
“We just want them to send some help. Help them social distance. We know they’re in prison. You can’t separate them but so much, but if you can help a little bit,” she said.
The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections has conducted mass testing at three facilities: Marion Correctional, Pickaway Correctional and Franklin Medical Center. In a statement, ODRC said they chose those facilities, “based on the demographics of those populations. Marion houses a high number of older individuals, many who have pre-existing health conditions. Pickaway houses our long-term care center similar to a nursing home, and Franklin is our state prison medical center.”
ODRC said that at Marion specifically, 95 percent of the positive cases were asymptomatic, meaning those prisoners were not showing symptoms at the time of the test. That also means those prisoners would not have been tested if the mass requirement hadn’t been put into effect.
Saturday’s protestors want more to be done to help those prisoners who have tested positive, and to protect those who haven’t contracted the virus yet.
“Governor DeWine, we’re begging you, pleading you, I voted for you! Save my son!” exclaimed White. “His crime does not equal death. That is my baby. He is not an inmate number. That is my baby.”