Incorruptible Massachusetts

Solidarity LIVE! Medford city councilor, expert on SNAP benefits, COVID, and incarceration

June 10, 2020 Anna Callahan Season 3 Episode 3
Incorruptible Massachusetts
Solidarity LIVE! Medford city councilor, expert on SNAP benefits, COVID, and incarceration
Incorruptible Massachusetts
Solidarity LIVE! Medford city councilor, expert on SNAP benefits, COVID, and incarceration
Jun 10, 2020 Season 3 Episode 3
Anna Callahan

Hear stories of how our community is weathering the COVID-19 crisis -- including a City Councillor, an expert on SNAP, and a criminal justice expert.

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Show Notes Transcript

Hear stories of how our community is weathering the COVID-19 crisis -- including a City Councillor, an expert on SNAP, and a criminal justice expert.

To hear about our next show, go to

Support the show (

Anna Callahan:   0:00
[This transcript was produced by a computer program and has errors. The definitive version of the podcast is the audio.] Hello everyone, thanks for joining us. Here we are on Solidarity LIVE! This is our second week. We're talking about how COVID-19 is affecting Medford and Somerville. So I have the great pleasure of having Medford. City Councilor Zac Bears here with me. Zac, first, I would love to have you just introduce yourself and maybe say a little bit about what is happening at the Medford City Council now.

Zac Bears, Medford City Councilor:   0:31
Absolutely. Thanks for having me on, and thanks for putting these together. Um, complicated question. There's just so much, so many moving parts, so much just moving some quickly. Um, you know, I think obviously a lot of the policy has focused on the public health. Um, you know that's the utmost order right now. So we've been, you know, we closed schools before the statewide order. We had started implementing some of the business stuff for the statewide order. So I think -- No, it was three weeks ago. It feels like three months ago. We had really, um, you know, it's a new interesting time. We have a mayor who came in in January. So, um, you know, that's -- that's a really big challenge for a new mayor to face something like the Coronavirus. And I think our mayor has done a good job, really good job, and got [it] ahead of a lot of, a lot of the statewide orders. I mean, obviously, if we started two weeks earlier we'd be in a very different position, but we weren't getting that information from anyone you know at the federal or the state level. Guidance wasn't there when it needed to be there. So in an absence of that, I think we've done, um, a really impressive job and I think to about businesses and residents and volunteers and, you know, just local people have really stepped up and supported each other, and shown solidarity. Well, I think we're living solidarity right now, and we're also living the prices of our economic and social order right now, and people might not be calling it the things that we -- some of us may call it. But I think it's, Ah, that's actually really important. So so just just in the general public health stay at home, um, keep things closed, I think we got a little earlier than some other folks. I think that's pretty good. And I think we've also just had really good communication. Um, so So in terms of emergency orders, that's the state or city level. If people have questions or they're interested. you would go to, or Medford-MA .gov There's a really good page on Coronavirus and also some really good stuff on food and other issues as well. So that's a general summary. I could talk specifically about some policy, but I want to give you a chance to guide -- guide the conversation.

Anna Callahan:   2:56
Yeah. Um, so thanks. One thing that I really wanted you in every episode is in case there. People probably everybody's got the memo. But in case they're people who haven't gotten the memo just how serious this is and why it's important to what they call "social distancing", which I wish they were calling "physical distancing". You know, um, I pass people on the street like I'm walking with my son or something, and we're like, more than six feet away. And I'm like, "Hey, how are you?" And some people are really friendly and some people are waargh. So, physical distancing -- why is it really important? And what are we facing?

Zac Bears, Medford City Councilor:   3:33
Sure. So really at this moment. You know, we could call it social distancing, physical distancing. What it is in practice and this is something again three months ago, AKA three weeks ago, sharing out. Nobody knows what social distancing is. It's a new word for people. So that makes it really hard for some people. And also, then translate that into other languages, and suddenly you have a huge kind of information breakdown. Right? Um. So what it really means is you need to stay at home if possible and avoid contact with other people. Like that's really what it is. You wanna know who you're in touch with, six feet has been the guidance. I saw some science the other day that maybe even farther than six feet would be preferable for a lot of of interactions. Physical distancing, um, but it's important because we're breaking the chain of transmission of the virus right now. So we've seen some effect of that. We don't have enough testing to know how well everything is working or how sick people around us are. So that just adds to that need to just pause, isolate, self-isolate, and you know, ideally, you know, I'm with my parents. So we are in the same household. But we don't necessarily sit close to each other on the couch even, so, that kind of Ah, um, distancing, I think, is is is how we're gonna break the chain because we can't do I think Doctor Fauci said it, right? We don't -- what we're doing right now is mitigation. And that's not where we want to be. We wannabe into tracing and containment. It's so bad that we can't do that. So we all need to take actions in absence of the ability to actually track, Um, who's sick, and who isn't. And then this asymptomatic, especially asymptomatic people like my age, like 25, 20 to 40, that's another huge spreader as well. So if you're young, especially -- stay at home! Hopefully you're with roommates that you like, and you can make it through. But, you know, that's -- it's really essential -- I'm seeing someone right now. We live 10 minutes away from each other. We have not seen each other in 3.5 weeks. So even making sacrifices like that is really important. Um, you know, even if you think you're -- you're safe -- we don't have the information. We don't have that testing. So...

Anna Callahan:   5:56
So I just

Zac Bears, Medford City Councilor:   5:56
...really need to, yeah...

Anna Callahan:   5:58
By the way, I just got a comment that says, if it's okay for you to mute your own computer. Either put in the headphones or mute your own computer screen while you're speaking that there's a little bit of...

Zac Bears, Medford City Councilor:   6:09
sure. I am in a, I am in a headphone right now. So I don't know if that's me.

Anna Callahan:   6:16
Yeah, um. If the other -- we also have two other folks who are on Skype. I don't know if it matters if they mute, if, you know, if they're in headphones or mute, that would be amazing. That might be what is it.

Zac Bears, Medford City Councilor:   6:31
I don't know if Caroline is so,

Anna Callahan:   6:32
Yeah, that I can probably mute her if she is not muted. Hmmm. It's not as easy as in Zoom. But, Caroline, if you're listening, if you could mute, that would be awesome. Thank you. Um, great. And so, you know, one thing I want to emphasize is that the real danger here is the idea that we may overwhelm the hospitals. So So that's what, like, big picture wise that I think is what we're trying to avoid my social distancing. Why it's it's worth it to, like, literally almost crash our economy temporarily. Because if we don't do this, that, um, you have so many people going to the hospitals that you literally just don't have enough ventilators and beds and doctors to treat them. And then there is no treatment. And if there's no treatment than people, simply just a ton of people will die. So that's kind of reasoning why it's important. And if you can, you know, we've talked about this a little bit last week, but, um, if you have some notes of of hope for people who may realize how bad it is and be at home feeling very down about things that this maybe won't be forever like, what is your sense of us pulling out of this?

Zac Bears, Medford City Councilor:   7:52
So I mean, my personal thing that I found I was doing my back of the napkin -- we're gonna have this many cases on this day and, you know, based on doubling every day. And for the first couple weeks we were ahead of that, and now we're behind that. That's just my calculation. I'm not a scientist. That's just what I'm doing to make myself feel a little more, um, comfortable. I mean I... If they hold, we need multiple polls, we need a polling average, right, but, um, you know that Boston Globe poll that 90 plus 94 plus percent of people think this is incredibly serious. They're taking it seriously and Massachusetts was really good. And I think too just the, you know, we haven't seen here what we've seen in New York, um, over the past couple weeks as well. So I think it shows that getting out a little bit ahead of everything has helped us here. Um, we're certainly not out of the woods. We can't stop. We're probably, you know, if we do this for another month, maybe then we'll be able to assess. Um, but... I mean, the other good thing is that, you know, the stimulus package wasn't what we wanted it to be, but it was a lot better than 2008, um, and as things get worse, um, I studied economics when I went to school, and I actually worked as an economist for the Department of Labor. Um, you know, it doesn't mean I know what's gonna happen. This is unprecedented. But, um, you know, the next stim... there will need to be another stimulus. It will need to be more focused on regular people. It's going to eventually come to this conclusion that, um, you know, we're gonna have to do direct income support or do a payment kind of hold. And then for me, I mean, we've never seen something like this before. We're like, having the Great Depression and World War II in three months, which is a very... It means it's nuts for the economy. Um, but, you know, if we could eventually get to a place where we say, wherever we were on March 1st, that's where you're gonna be on July 1st and then just say, you know, that's actually an even better system been tryingto prop everything up through income support. It's just saying, you know, we're just gonna live in our houses for four months. If you have a landlord, the landlord's not gonna pay out stuff for four months, and you're not gonna pay them for four months and really start to think about instead of crashing the economy, freezing the economy. But I think, either way, because of the depth and scope and speed of the crisis, there has been more of a focus on working people than in the past. Obviously not everyone, obviously not our undocumented neighbors. So I'm for people who are left out. There are -- there are funds that I really think you should look into to support people.

Anna Callahan:   10:37
Yeah, Um, I think it's I'm really interesting hearing a little bit more from you about, um, the two sort of avenues that you talked about. One is direct payments, and the other is freezing the economy. Right. So I know in Denmark there, they're paying every worker 75% of their income I believe, for the time being, just the government is -- that's the way that they're handling it. But in Boston, there is a new movement, ah, for Massachusetts. I believe it's called Housing Guarantee that's talking about, um, at least -- like, in addition to moratorium, moratorium on mortgage payments, having some sort of ah cancellation of rent for people who are unable to pay? Um, can you talk a little bit about, um, about either of those? Talk either about the freezing economy or about the direct payments side?

Zac Bears, Medford City Councilor:   11:36
Yeah. I mean, I think, um, we were getting a little bit more there on the direct payments, just in terms of we're all getting $1200. It's not enough. So that there's a -- there's a system in place and we are receiving something. So there's some form of direct payment and -- and what Senator Sanders was able to do around the 1099, tipped, and gig employees and getting them into unemployment and then also having that extra $600 a week on top of standard benefits, as well as the extension from, you know, six months to nine months of how long you can be on, you know. So that's kind of where we are now. Those are some of the new income supports that we've created. Um, they're not gonna be suspicion. So I think we're gonna have to come back and say, "What's a regular patient schedule?" Instead -- instead of just saying you get $1200 one time. I'm really thinking about, at least for some period of time, essentially a basic income, right, um, for everybody. And then, I -- I would love to see jobs programs at the federal level if we can get to a point where the economy isn't strong but we are healthy enough for us to do something like that to try to, finally, rebuild a lot of um, our broken country and pay people good wages and make sure they have union jobs to do that. Um, I think the payment stuff is something that's a little more in our scope of control at the state level, especially around housing. So I know that there's kind of many different ideas out there right now. Um,

Anna Callahan:   13:09
By "the payments stuff," you don't mean direct payments from the government. You mean...

Zac Bears, Medford City Councilor:   13:12
Sorry. I mean...

Anna Callahan:   13:14

Zac Bears, Medford City Councilor:   13:15
Yes, yes, the freezing of the economy. So, um, you know, there is something I think called rent freeze dot org. I'm gonna type that into my browser really quick just to make sure that I'm not lying to you and I'm not. Rent freeze dot org is a website Representative -- State Rep. Mike Connolly, Somerville, Cambridge, has been working a lot on housing related legislation. Just last night, the Medford City Council supported HD 4935 which is the eviction and foreclosure moratorium bill that he's filed. And now he's also drafting legislation -- he's actually drafting it publicly at rent freeze dot org, so he hasn't filed it yet. He's trying to get input and suggestions and thoughts before he files it.

Anna Callahan:   13:59

Zac Bears, Medford City Councilor:   14:59
So if you have them, go, go put those in. And I think that's because we can't gather. Right now. We can't come together at the State House and say This is what we want So that would do a wreck, freeze and kind of There's a lot of things we talk about. I think the idea that we're talking about is essentially what some people call cancellation, which is just more for both mortgages and for rent. We're taking these few months off. It's not gonna crew any tricks. You don't have to pay a balloon payment at the end of a pandemic. Landlord. Right? So that's really what we're thinking. But it's not, you know, tenants don't pay and everyone else's didn't you know that landlord doesn't property on our side? I'm kind of in trouble from that. We really need everybody. That's what I've been trying to say is this is all hands on deck and we're trying to help everyone, and that seems to be the intent of what's going on with? Definitely Did it progresses? Housing legislation here in Massachusetts?

Anna Callahan:   15:01
Yeah, absolutely. Um, anything else going on at the, um, at the city level?

Zac Bears, Medford City Councilor:   15:10
Yeah. I mean, so for housing. We're just kind of trying to pull everything together. I think some of these communities looking to do is if you have a community preservation C p A. You may have some funding that's for affordable housing on that is allowed to be used for rental assistance. Or at least we think it is. So we're looking into that right now. Um, we're not as well. Resource is some of our neighbors and Somerville. So, you know, they have a whole housing stability office were at least trying to get a having stability hot line up for minute for residents. That has the seat and federal resource is, and then hopefully city resource is and then our food security task force has been doing a fantastic job. They have existed, You know, we have a very serious food security problem in Medford were one of the top cities in the state in terms of people who don't have access to food. So we have been over the past several years. A group of residents around and give her and others have really been doing a great job, along with the, you know, people at City Hall, our city staff on may have stepped up unbelievably during this prices we have, I think we have grab and go for seniors and Children and families. Now we're actually expanded that so much that I think, you know, it's not just necessarily focused on. We might not have enough for everybody who comes. So there's a lot of locations around the city for grabbing. You want to think about it, and I think fisticuffs as well. Um, we have a group from this food security class forms and our interfaith clergy who have been putting together micro pantries around the city. So basically almost small boxes, different places that air just come come and grab food that it's there, bring food if you can, Um, and those has been full.

Anna Callahan:   16:59
Yeah, but we've seen that on the mama's list, the mutually Medford of April, that people are helping with that and and, you know, they also have a lot of good advice about how to, you know, We're in gloves washing before you go out. And you know that if you're leaving something in the pantry that you want to do that safely s so that you know, even if you're completely asymptomatic, that you're not leaving something for someone that might could potentially infect them. And, um so I know that there are a lot of, ah, a lot of good people who are helping to fill those as well.

Zac Bears, Medford City Councilor:   17:31
Yeah. What? One other really quick thing, if I can is just that We've had volunteers also calling our seniors, so that's just checking in, seeing if they need anything. That's been a great thing that we've been able to D'oh. We have some award captains that are kind of sometimes linked into the mamas. And there's just a lot of interconnected networks of people helping each other. So that's been and the city's didn't kind of lifting that as much as possible.

Anna Callahan:   17:58
Yeah. Yep. Great. So, uh, we actually do have a food insecurity person who's just about to come on the call. Andi, I wanted to ask if you have any final words for people for this week before before we go to the next guest.

Zac Bears, Medford City Councilor:   18:19
Yeah, Just, um, stay strong. If you need help, reach out. People are here, everywhere around you, Medford again. If you're in Medford, there's a lot of resources on our city website, including, you know, um, all the different kinds of hoping, especially if you if you're in crisis or you're struggling and you just need someone to see two and kind of work through that I'm there some connections to some resources on that as well.

Anna Callahan:   18:44
Great. Do you want to say one more time? The website that people could go to from it?

Zac Bears, Medford City Councilor:   18:49
Yeah. It's a Medford mn dot org's or Medford Ashram. A duck of bringing to the same close.

Anna Callahan:   18:55
Fantastic. Thank you so much for being on. It's great to hear about the the great work that you guys are doing there, um, and and chat a little bit. Also about state and federal policy. Thank you. Thanks. Yeah, um, we're gonna go ahead and switch to Becca Miller. Um, Becca, I've got you on screen now. I'm gonna switch out the name so that you don't look like you're Zach Baer's. There we go. Um, Autumn. So, first

Caroline Bays, Progressive Massachusetts steering committee:   19:25

Anna Callahan:   19:25
would love for you. to introduce yourself before. I kind of read the story that that led me to invite you on here.

Becca Miller, SNAP/HIP:   19:34
Sure. I'm Becca Miller. Live in summary. Alas, um, for my day job, I work. It's the campaign manager at the Masters Is Food System Collaborative for the funding for helping incentives program campaign. Long name, um, which is a program under Snap in Massachusetts. And I also organized with Boston P s A. And I'm on the steering committee of Nationwide ICO socials and Working group.

Anna Callahan:   19:56
Fantastic. Um, thanks for all the great work that you're doing. Um, so I would like to just go ahead and read. Someone sent an email to the show, and they wanted me to read it. So this isn't someone who says I am a 58 year old disabled Medford resident. My doctor advised me to shelter in place due to make congenital lung disease. When attempting to set up an online grocery delivery, I discovered that Massachusetts does not allow snap PVT recipients this necessary service. Why is this this present a very dangerous choice to high risk individuals go hungry or expose oneself to a potentially fatal infection. Please explain.

Becca Miller, SNAP/HIP:   20:38
So first of all, solidarity. I'm sorry. That's, um, extremely frustrating. And I'm again sorry that that's happening. This is not really like a state issue. It's more of a federal level issue. Um, USDA, which manages snap across the country, doesn't allow online sales for snap right now except in bite of states, which are part of a pilot program which started back in 2019. Um, and those states are mainly working with to retailers for that all mine and purchasing pilot very much our Amazon and warmer. Um, so it's not really like a state issue. It's more of a federal issue in the back, and it's not, like, super exciting. It's mostly just like the tech isn't there to support online purchasing. Um, and, uh, the Masters Department Transitional Assistance, which manages snap in Massachusetts, understands especially right now, folks want this and are seeing other folks being able to purchase groceries through pea pod or um prime or through a variety of local distributors, right? And so they have been asked by the master to this Legislature to ask USDA or a waiver that would allow this to happen. But again, because of the tech issue, It's something that would probably take a couple months to get set up in running and they're off. Listen. Concerns among advocates and Food security world that because Amazon WalMart other, too, um, retailers in this pilot program that they would be the only ones benefiting from this extension right, and like we know that they're going to survive this crisis. But we don't know that like other farmers that Air snap authorized or other smaller retail grocery genes but serve areas that are commonly known as food deserts or like bodegas, they're not necessarily, um, going to be automatically included in this. But just just another look complicating factor. So this is kind of along with the dancer, and I'm sorry, but there are a couple of ways to get around this. You can add unauthorized person to your PC account. Um, you could do that online through the D T ake Match portal. You can also ask a trusted friend or neighbor to go shopping for you. You give them a list through Mama's as um, and I looked it up earlier, retailers were really like, not allowed to ask about the identity on your e B T card that's protected by federal law, so don't feel uncomfortable about that. But just definitely make sure that it's someone that you trust if you're gonna ask him to do that for you.

Anna Callahan:   23:08
Yeah, And also you had mentioned when I first asked you about this that, uh, the hip program. You actually can order fresh produce through the hip program for delivery. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Becca Miller, SNAP/HIP:   23:21
Yeah, for sure. So it is a special program. It's the only statewide program of its kind of the country. Essentially, if you receive snap in Massachusetts, you got an extra 48 40 to $80 per month to send on fruits and veggies with participating farmers. Because of the crisis, a couple of farmers have rework their business models to do, um, online delivery. Essentially, boats complete in orders online, and they pay in person like farmers air literally going door to door across the state to like make sure that those come like swipe their cards in person. Still make that happen. Um, so there are a couple of farmers that air do vamos in western mouths. There's the Sunderland full up, which essentially aggravates, Um a couple different farmers. There's one called Mass Who delivery. There's there's, like, a bunch of difference that I can call out. But essentially, it's, um, easy STP call project read to find a hip retailer near you. Um, just because I don't know where this question came from, I don't want to, like, make sure that we're missing anyone, but Yeah, a lot of farmers have reworked their business models to make sure that, like folks were still accessing rush food during this prices.

Anna Callahan:   24:34
Yeah, that's an amazing program that Massachusetts has. Um, and can you, uh, can you either? Like, do you happen to know the phone number for the broader there? Ah, website for them. Like, where can people find us? Information.

Becca Miller, SNAP/HIP:   24:48
Yeah, I can tell you both. Um, so project reds Who source hotline, which has language capacity for about 100 60 different languages. Um, and that number is 1 806 458333 you can also, uh, just look at Project Breads Website. A project red dot org's slash Get dash help. Um, and they have a bunch of different resources there.

Anna Callahan:   25:16
Great. That's awesome. Um, I'm slightly curious just about the tech issue to talk about, Um, isn't it? So when you're saying that it we can't get it here in Massachusetts and understand the issue with Amazon and Wal Mart being the two options in the five states that do have it right, Um, that's not the least so least, um, but would would it? What's the tech issue between us and getting at least those two who are piloting it in other states to be able to deliver to people in Massachusetts?

Becca Miller, SNAP/HIP:   25:55
Yeah, so it's It has I am not an expert in this, so forgive me, but, um, it's has to do with the E b T systems third party processor. So essentially, they just need thio code. The ability for snap transactions toe happen online because essentially USDA snap regulations will get updated when there's like me, farm bills, which only happen every 45 years. And there Uh, yeah, yeah. So it's mostly just like the back end, like there needs to be a lot of coating and like, security, that needs to happen on that and on. But I have been told will take a while.

Anna Callahan:   26:32
Uh, okay, um, at least we've got hip here. That's great. Do you have any final thoughts for, um, for folks who you either may have Cem Cem either onset or aren't on snap. Maybe who? Like, for example, who's eligible for snap? And would people now who have lost their jobs, maybe they would be eligible for something they don't know. Like, who can? Who can apply?

Becca Miller, SNAP/HIP:   26:57
Yeah, So there's a couple of different requirements to apply for snap. Um, they have to do with income. Ah, like citizenship status. Um and, um, like a couple of verification documents. If you recently lost your job or how to decrease in ours, definitely don't wait to apply for unemployment insurance insurance. Do that first and then apply first. Now, um, there's been a lot of, um, rules changes with snap just to make things easier or excited because of the increase in applications the state has seen because of the crisis. So, um, there's been ah, a lot of like easing restrictions. So if you have lost your job, definitely apply for unemployment insurance and then apply for snap, Um, you can do that online and DT a connect dot org's, um, or you can do with a partner agency. Like I said, with Project Red's food source hotline, they also take snap applications over the phone. So if you don't have Internet access, you can do it that way. And they also have playing with capacity. As I mentioned, um, the state's, um, Max snap. And if it isn't too much. So there's definitely, you know, advocacy going around that in this federal stimulus budgets. But right now is definitely important resource for folks to get if they have been affected by the crisis.

Anna Callahan:   28:25
Absolutely great. Well, thank you so much, Beka. It's been great to have you on, um, and again for the work that you do always. Um, and I think we're about to start a conversation about, um, incarcerated folks in Massachusetts and how they are. Deal. Listen up. So thank you. Back out. We're going to say chow to you. Um, I'm gonna invite on Carolyn Bays. Great. Carolyn, you are alive. I fear that I have a frozen version of you. Um, hang on. Yeah, Caroline, we might have toe reopen our phone call. You might have to dial in again. Um, yep. No. And I will let me see if I can get Caroline on the horn here. Meanwhile, I will say you can always send in your stories. You can send in your questions. You can comment on YouTube, and I can see all those comments so we can bring those in. Um, you know. Ah, there is, um, Becca again. Hi. How are you going to try and get Caroline on here when we call her back? Um ha. She is calling in. Pardon me? Have a little bit of ah issue was Skype. Give me one second trying to get Caroline on here when they, uh I don't have your video, but I do have your audio. Ah, I've got Thio, then. Thank you. Um, great. So first, we're gonna talk about how Kobe 19 is affecting folks in jails. Um, and I would love it if you would Go ahead and just introduce yourself and how you are sort of related to this to this topic.

Caroline Bays, Progressive Massachusetts steering committee:   31:00
Sure. My name is Caroline Bays. I, um, the president of the Board of Progressive Massachusetts and I've been working on criminal justice issues for a while now, and I, uh oh, by the way, I'm also a town councillor in Watertown. So I could relate to what Zack would say. But I have been visiting as a result of my activism. I've been visiting a young man who's been in solitary confinement for three years. Um, I could see he doesn't have any family nearby, has nobody else to visit him. So So I've been learning what it's like, really almost as a family member for somebody who's inside prison and especially inside solitary confinement.

Anna Callahan:   31:47
Yeah. Yep. Before we talk a little bit more generally about what's happening, well, you don't you want to talk generally about what's happening in Massachusetts prisons? Or do you wanna go? She just go straight at what's happening related to Kobe. 19. I think. Let's start with Kobe, 19 and why it's so dangerous for them at this moment. And then we can even brought it up a little bit.

Caroline Bays, Progressive Massachusetts steering committee:   32:10
Yeah, so yeah, right now I've actually been talking to him. We've been emailing daily. Um, right now, basically, paranoia and fear is running rampant through his his tear. The, um they're basically helpless. They cannot leave their cells without touching meant. You know, two people things. They they have to be mean to the point where they actually every time they leave their cell, even just for a shower they airstrip surged so they had no way of protecting their own bodies and, you know, from from the correctional officers. In addition, the correctional officers are from what he's saying, not taking it as seriously as they would like them to they Just as in a few days ago, they were finally given Mass the face mask, the correctional officers. But none of them are wearing it. They're putting him, you know, I'm thinking of all these doctors who were killing for masks on and they're just putting them around their necks and joking about it and joking that they're gonna breathe on that. Their cost built bill joke, like no cough act like they're sick and say that they're gonna breathe on the, you know, the prisoners. And it's just very scary for the prisoners there. They're buying as much soap is they Can they don't have any hand sanitizer that

Anna Callahan:   33:39
Dooley. Do you mean that the prisoners themselves are spending their own money to buy soap?

Caroline Bays, Progressive Massachusetts steering committee:   33:44
Oh, yes. Oh, that's true of everything. That's the broader issue. They have to send our own money to buy toothpaste, toothbrushes? If they want decent food, they have to spend money.

Anna Callahan:   33:57
So before you go on, I do want to just mention we have someone who's commented on YouTube, saying they're hoping to hear about what correctional facilities air doing to prevent the spread of proving 19. Um, And so it sounds like one thing that they're doing is they have. They seem to have obtained masks, which, you know, it's so incredibly important for our because a shortage of masks and it's so important for our hospital staff and doctors to be able to have the masks that they need. And, of course, it's important for correctional facilities. Toe have masks as well, but not if they're just wearing them from their neck and using it to, you know, taunt the inmates.

Caroline Bays, Progressive Massachusetts steering committee:   34:40
Yes, and they also said they were cleaning like they were cleaning the showers. They were doing things like that. But as faras, he could tell the showers didn't look any cleaner they didn't have. He actually saw the cleaning supplies that they said there was gonna be special cleaning supplies, but he's seen those cleaning supplies a 1,000,000 times. It's the same cleaning supplies, so they haven't They're saying that they're doing things. The one thing that they have done that is the best thing they have done is, um unfortunately, you know him. He's in solitary confinement. He does get one visit a week. They've had to every understandably, everybody understands it had to cancel all visitors. Um, however, they are in lieu of that, giving them two extra phone calls a day, and they're and they're giving them a free phone call. And just that little step, I wish the CEOs I wish that actually, the people who run the prisons could understand that little step goes a long way. It is so appreciated by by, you know, Andrew the young man I visit in all of the other, you know, prisoners who have to have to endure being separated from their families.

Anna Callahan:   35:53
So I'm gonna jump it. I can't resist jumping in here because I did spend two nights in jail in 2000 when I was legally arrested for protesting. Um, there were about 71 of us. Ah, we were illegally strip searched. The women only were strip searched twice during our time there, and it was a giant lawsuit afterwards and all that. But I will say that this was in Los Angeles, and I will say that we were. We were arrested and literally not allowed to wash in anyway. And the police had arrested us, had us leaning up against, like, pushing us against a chain link fence that was like covered in grease and oil. It was right directly underneath the freeway, and so are our hands. And our bodies were just They had all this black grease all over them, and we we were not. There was no ability for us to wash anything at all for like, you know, 30 hours or more so and the whole taunting thing, I people may not realize how much psychological games are played. Um, two inmates. Bye correctional staff. So the idea that correctional staff are joking about, um, purposefully getting inmates sick with Kobe 19. Um, that that is, you know, I mean, this is really psychological. It's terrible. That should not be legal for them to do that. And then I want

Caroline Bays, Progressive Massachusetts steering committee:   37:35
it for

Anna Callahan:   37:35
a second before we're going to talk a little bit about how dangerous it is to be in these close quarters with people. I mean, we're talking about social distancing, and, you know, people who are in incarcerated do not have that ability. So what can you talk a little bit just about, like how dangerous it is? And if there have been any outbreaks inside of any correctional facilities,

Caroline Bays, Progressive Massachusetts steering committee:   38:01
there has been an outbreak in a correctional facility. I quite a number of people have gotten sick. I not up to date on today, on which, um, what the numbers are. But it was 17 the last I looked. Um um, I did hear from Chris Fallon, who said that they have lots of protocol and that he was going to keep people from being sick. But, you know, the protocol obviously is not being followed and and people are getting sick. And the main problem is, and as you must have experienced and felt yourself is just a pure helplessness, like we I can control where our bodies go. You know, we can control what is gonna happen to us, but they are totally at the whim of other human beings. They have zero control over this, so the psychological sort of, you know, fear. Even without another human being actively trying to terrorize you, the psychological fear is there already and the helplessness and then not being able Thio, you know, protect yourself is just, you know, it's heartbreaking. Toe, Listen. Well, I'm reading right now. Um, what Andrew has to say about the experience of being inside there right now,

Anna Callahan:   39:26
um, we have another. Another question here. Um, are there ways for people to get involved and support the incarcerated population during this time of crisis canteen money for soap masks, letters? I'm sympathetic to those who are in prisons,

Caroline Bays, Progressive Massachusetts steering committee:   39:42
so letters are always appreciated. There's several different. You can go online and I'm fine, you know, Write a prisoner. There's there's there's a couple of websites that could match you up with prisoners. I can't tell you how much letters were appreciated. Um, I want you to establish a relationship. It's a little difficult to get money to somebody, but once you've established a relationship, they can describe how you need toe how you can get some money for people I don't think you can. There's no donation for getting things. What, you know, it's very it's actually quite difficult to get anything to Thio a friend or relative, so you can't buy it for them. They have to buy it themselves. And it's only prison prison, you know, approved things from the canteen that are allowed to go into the, um into their cells so you can't really buy them anything.

Anna Callahan:   40:39
Um, And before we go on to the next questions, we do have another question. Um, you're saying that letters and e mails are really helpful? Is there some particular easy way I know that? The You know, a lot of people who are involved in Mama's mutually Medford of Somerville are you know, people want to help, right? People want to be able to do something like what's an easy way for people to get involved that way?

Caroline Bays, Progressive Massachusetts steering committee:   41:02
So, um, the best way to do that I think write a prisoner dot com, I think is the name of it. It looked that up, and there's lots of prisoners who really are begging for people to write them because they don't have that much contact with the outside. So I would do that that that's probably the best way. There are also a whole bunch of different groups, um, who are working on different issues, that I'm a member of both Massachusetts against solitary confinement. There's I'm also a member of a group called Concerned Elders. We actually go in and visit people in prisons if you let him do my give them people my contact information, especially if they're interested in visiting people, that that is one of the things that are harder for people to do. And it really makes a big difference in their lives.

Anna Callahan:   42:04
And I assume we can't do that right now. What is it visiting? Yep, there's no business, right?

Caroline Bays, Progressive Massachusetts steering committee:   42:11
No, no visiting right now, however, if the writing the letters is allowed, so that could be done great. But if anyone's interested in getting involved, I I'm happy to point them in the right direction. You know, for whatever thing they might want to dio. There's also different groups. Um, there's who go in and educate, um, prisoners that they can go in and and actually they could become part of a group that might teach, teach people how to read or teach people how to, um right. You know, there's also groups like that. So there's a long list of groups, and I'm like the names are escaping me right now. But but I would be more than happy to, um, to, you know, forward all that information to anyone who's interested.

Anna Callahan:   43:03
Wonderful. There is another question, Uh, which is Do you know what sort of medical care is available in case someone in prison does get the virus?

Caroline Bays, Progressive Massachusetts steering committee:   43:16
Um uh, there is medical care available. However, from what I've seen, and I don't I don't know if they've improved it all. It's been very, very lax. Umm, they do have nurses, but they have way too few doctors and nurses per prisoner to really deal with. If there's a huge outbreak, there's there's gonna be a big problem because they just don't have the band with. There's too few doctors and nurses employed by the system to deal with a huge outbreak in in the in the Massachusetts State prisons.

Anna Callahan:   43:57
Right? Um, so, you know, I've heard I know that a couple of our state councillors here in Somerville the venue, and Kevin and J. T. Scott and as well as other people, have been talking about releasing certain portions of the prison population. Certainly the ones who are, What's I'm forgetting? The term I sometimes call it Debtor's prison right is people who they're pretrial detention. Is that right? So they haven't been convicted of anything and they just can't pay bail. And so they're held in jail. Is that

Caroline Bays, Progressive Massachusetts steering committee:   44:29
yes. So So despite the fact that they're supposed to actually not that not forced people to to pay a bail that's unaffordable. They are still requiring bales that are unaffordable to people. So there's a lot of people in jail, the vestments. I think the majority of the prisoner jails we've been talking about prisons. Jails have not have actually been convicted

Anna Callahan:   44:55
is it is so insane. It's really mine, Mind blowing to me that this is true in America today.

Caroline Bays, Progressive Massachusetts steering committee:   45:03
So Rachel Rollins it has been working on that. She kind of took the lead. I know that Peter Contusion and D. A. Ryan are looking at who they could release, but it's taking them a while, and also, I think, Andrea Harrington. It's another day out in the western part of the estate who's also looking into trying to get people released who could possibly, you know, be released, and this includes that just the people who are held on bail in our free pre sedative saying there's there's high risk people with illnesses who should definitely come home. There are geriatric prisoners who should come home. There are parole. Eligible people should be coming home there. And, um, anyone who's really close to being released should just be released.

Anna Callahan:   45:54
Is there Is there some way that we can pressure people? Is there a way that that, you know, folks listening here can can help with that?

Caroline Bays, Progressive Massachusetts steering committee:   46:02
Yes. Well, first of all, the D. A's are, You know, they're elected, so certainly as a constituent, please contact every d. Ay, that especially the ones who are not acting on this. Please contact them. And also contact your state reps on um, and your senators. Because Lindsay Savage Aziza has filed a Bill HD. You can write this down. HD 49632 Deke are sory prisoners, and that is something that people can do. Try to get your legislators to support that bill. So

Anna Callahan:   46:41
great. Um, do

Caroline Bays, Progressive Massachusetts steering committee:   46:43
you want to talk a

Anna Callahan:   46:43
little bit about who talked a lot about Kobe 19 and how it's affecting people? Um, can you talk to us a little bit about what you were working on before coming. Intended about solitary, solitary confinement?

Caroline Bays, Progressive Massachusetts steering committee:   46:55
Sure. Yes, we've been, um, I'm part of a group. Like I said before Massachusetts against solitary confinement, which people could also joy. We'd love to have more members trying to bring attention to the fact that that Massachusetts has one of the largest solitary confinement. Um, you know, populations in terms of the proportion of the of prisoners we have inmates we have in Massachusetts. We have a way with the last time for the last year where they were really taking the sample out of 9000 prisoners, approximately 3000 a little bit less than 3000 had been put in solitary confinement in Massachusetts. We have there and they keep them in there for up to 10 years. That's that that how is that legal? It's legal in Massachusetts, and it's still legal, even after the Criminal Justice Act was passed. So I have a friend. He's visiting someone who was sentenced for 10 years. Um, I'm visiting someone who was sentenced to four years, and I mean he was the young man. A visiting was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He was sentenced to four years in solitary confinement. That's an incident that didn't where nobody was hurt. So where nobody was even injured. So it was altercation with it with a correctional officer. But But it was a minor altercation.

Anna Callahan:   48:26
And by the way, you I think you want to mention to me the limit. Um, isn't there? Ah, Lim. Um, under the sort of world human rights who has a limit, That's, um

Caroline Bays, Progressive Massachusetts steering committee:   48:40
15 day. Yeah. According Thio, the, um uh yeah, the U N. Yeah. 15 days is torture, right? And 15 days is nothing. They don't even, you know, everybody gets 15 days and most people spend 23 months and then lots of people. And for the place where the young man I visit, it's a d. D. You. It's specifically, it's it's It's almost a separate prison that specifically just for long term solitary confinement, everybody has over a year

Anna Callahan:   49:19
that is totally insane. Yes, it's horrible. Horrifying,

Caroline Bays, Progressive Massachusetts steering committee:   49:26
because they've all spent at least six months waiting in solitary confinement for a sentence, and then they're sentenced to at least six months. Usually they're sentenced to about a year or two years, So yeah.

Anna Callahan:   49:39
Wow. Um, well, on, let's end on a slightly better note than that one. Um Ah. Do you

Becca Miller, SNAP/HIP:   49:53
have any better than that one in terms of the

Anna Callahan:   49:56
incarcerated population? Like what do you, um, is there anything on the horizon of any bills that you think are happening right now? Maybe the state level that have a good chance of passing Or, you know, uh, Rachel Rollins. You know, she seems pretty, pretty good. And and maybe you're through our elected d A's. We're gonna be having some positive movement.

Caroline Bays, Progressive Massachusetts steering committee:   50:17
I'm hoping through through D A's like Rachel Rollins, like Andrea Harrington, there is gonna be some movement, and they are gonna stuff incarcerating so much. So many people in our population are incarcerated who do not need to be incarcerated. Yeah, and and I am I actually did court watch, and I'm starting to see the change. And I'm starting to see the deke arse aeration of our population, which is is is the hopeful you know, thing that's happening on our that's the whole full, you know, if they're not in prison in the first place, Yes. What about the conditions and press.

Anna Callahan:   50:55
That's exactly right. That is right. Yeah. Um, thank you so much for coming on today for talking about this. Incredibly important, I think too often overlooked topic. Um, and also for all the work that you do, um, it's really It's really important. I'm gonna actually go on. I'm gonna see if I can get some mama's folks to, um Ah, So Mama's folks Thio start writing letters, One final comment. As the mother of a previously incarcerated, I agree with Caroline, which he says the medical care is lax. Inmates are often not taken seriously and there are longer than average wait times for care. Yes. Yeah, it's a medical care in imprisons important topic, Especially now, uh, but we're gonna see if I can get some folks Thio to write some letters. And thank you so much. Great to talk to you.

Caroline Bays, Progressive Massachusetts steering committee:   51:54
Thank you.

Anna Callahan:   51:55
Yeah. Um, so just to close this out Ah, you can always as you can see, we take comments over YouTube. We really want to elevate people's stories. Um, So if you have a story, if anything has been happening to you because of Kobe 19 if you've been affected by either the health crisis that we have or if you have been affected economically, we know a lot of people in the district have we know there are a lot of students in Medford and Sommerville who had thio leave school. Um, and you know, either stuck having to pay rent somewhere they're not living or stuck not having a place to live. Um, and, uh, and then having to find places to live. So if you have any stories, please send them in. We can talk about them anonymously. We can have you on the show. I really believe that good policy is based on, ah, hearing directly from what's happening to people. Um And so, uh, I also think that we help people understand why policy is necessary by really elevating these stories. Um, so that we all understand, uh, how policy affect our lives. So thank you so much. Um, great. To have everybody here. And that is the end of today's show. We will be back next week. Thank you.