Protesters ask for prison reform in Pekin

Local News

PEKIN, Ill. (WMBD) — As part of a national call for action, protesters gathered in Pekin to protest the prison system in the United States.

A group of over 20 protesters drove and gathered near the Federal Corrections Institute in Pekin and asked for reform and change at the federal, state, and local levels. Diana Downing, who’s husband is incarcerated, said it’s about treating inmates like humans.

“They’re being treated like animals,” Downing said. “They’re living right now in 120-degree heat with no fans and no access to proper water.”

Downing and another woman organized the local protest. They believe prisons and jails aren’t doing enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19 when transferring inmates.

“They brought COVID to his facility through transport,” Downing said.

Jenny Lee has a son in prison as well. She said the Bureau of Prisons recently tested her son for the virus after being held in many different prisons.

“He has been moved (to multiple prisons) a total of three times during this pandemic,” Lee said.

The group said prisons at the local, state, and federal levels lack basic sanitation supplies and personal protective equipment for both the inmates and the staff.

“Due to overcrowding of prisons, they have no way to social distance,” Downing said. “They’re waiting in there to die right now.”

Jenny Lee said she wants the public to realize people in prisons, like her son, have relatives waiting for them on the outside, regardless of the mistakes they made.

“These are loved ones, sons, daughters, fathers grandparents that are all humans and have family members that want them to get home healthy,” Lee said.

Both women acknowledged the need for prisons in the country but said prisons need reform and prisoners need to be treated like human beings with better care.

WMBD reached out to the Federal Corrections Institute in Pekin, who said they’d be able to comment on Monday.

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