In response to the growing risk of COVID-19 spreading throughout our jails, prisons and detention centers at an alarming rate, award winning artists, system impacted individuals, leading organizers on the frontlines and influential organizations from around the country are coming together to launch the #WeMatterToo Campaign to change the national narrative around COVID-19 and our criminal justice system, pressure public officials to take action to remedy the situation, amplify the voices and stories of people who are incarcerated and empower communities to be agents of change. Every day that goes by without action means more people will get sick with COVID-19 and die.
The name of our #WeMatterToo Movement is derived from this powerful image of a young man who is currently incarcerated in Cook County Jail and his message to the outside world: HELP. WE MATTER 2. We honor him and other people who are currently incarcerated during this global pandemic by fighting for them to improve conditions inside our nation’s jails, prisons and detention centers and release more incarcerated people especially those who are high risk for COVID-19.
No other country in the world incarcerates more people than the United States of America. With just four percent of the world’s population, 21 percent of the world’s incarcerated population live in U.S. facilities. COVID-19’s deadly impact on our nation’s more than 2.3 million incarcerated people as well as the thousands of individuals who work at the facilities is already underway. We must face this growing crisis with courage and compassion to spark change that lasts long after COVID-19 is gone to support our incarcerated brothers and sisters and keep them as safe and healthy as possible. The current conversation around our nation’s incarcerated community focuses only on numbers, policy and the economic impact of COVID-19 on our criminal justice system. We need to shift the discussion to one deeply rooted in humanity and compassion that acknowledges the human toll that this pandemic is having on our national’s criminal justice system.
#WeMatterToo is a grassroots movement comprised of organizations, artists and thought leaders who have dedicated their time and energy to supporting our brothers and sisters currently in prisons, jails and detention centers around the country during this scary and uncertain time. The campaign will center around a special short film produced in collaboration between Anti-Recidivism Coalition and Imagine Justice that is being directed by Filmmaker Savannah Leaf. The special film will showcase the voices of those currently incarcerated to amplify their stories and illustrate what’s going on behind the walls of our criminal justice system as COVID-19 continues to spread.
The #WeMatterToo Campaign will funnel the energy and emotion evoked from watching the film to drive audiences to take action whether it’s donating to a mutual aid fund to help formerly incarcerated individuals, signing a local petition to demand better conditions inside the facilities, calling your legislators to pressure them to advocate for criminal justice reform or one of the many other actions people will be able to take to help communities impacted by our criminal justice system.
#WeMatterToo is an ongoing campaign that kicks off with the release of the short film and several virtual activations including an online music and poetry showcase, panel discussion and fireside chat.