MCJ in Action – COVID-19

COVID-19 is taking a tragic toll on Americans across the country and here in Mississippi. People are struggling to access adequate testing and treatment for the disease. Many have died. Americans are losing jobs left and right. Small businesses are scrambling to stay afloat. Incarcerated people live in fear of an outbreak that would spread like wildfire in tight, unsanitary cells.

 

Tackling this crisis will require a strong, collaborative effort from the entire country. We are committed to doing everything in our power to help.

 

Thus far, MCJ has taken the following actions:

  • We filed a state court case to obtain a ruling that Mississippians were authorized to vote absentee based upon adherence to directions to avoid public gatherings by federal and state health officials. We won the case in the trial court but this decision was overturned on appeal by the Mississippi Supreme Court. The Court did make clear that persons who have prior conditions that put them at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 are authorized to vote absentee.
  • We have filed a lawsuit against MDOC for failing to adequately protect prisoners from COVID-19. Through negotiations we secured agreement for state corrections officials to implement numerous health measures to reduce the risk of spreading the virus in penitentiaries.
  • In October 2020, MCJ, MacArthur Justice Center, and Southern Poverty Law Center, in partnership with the RECH Foundation and BLM of MS, mailed almost 18,000 individual CARES Act packets – each containing all relevant instructions and Form 1040 with a stamped envelope – to people in MDOC custody.
  • For consumers who are facing eviction or other household disruptions due to COVID-19, MCJ has helped produce six videos that can serve as a valuable resource.
  • We have filed a lawsuit against MDOC for failing to adequately protect prisoners from COVID-19.
  • We have launched the Mississippi Mask Drive to provide homemade cloth masks to Mississippians who work and live in locked facilities during the pandemic.
  • We are demanding that the Mississippi Department of Health and the Division of Medicaid provide access to free COVID-19 testing and treatment and relaxation of certain requirements for Medicaid access.
  • In an op-ed we called out our legislature’s inaction to the COVID-19 crisis.
  • We joined Community Catalyst in calling out the Department of Health and Human Services to create a special enrollment period for the federal marketplace under the Affordable Care Act. In doing so, people without insurance would have the chance to get it.
  • We worked with the Center on Biological Diversity to push for a moratorium on water and electric utility shutoffs. That would ensure people would be able to access basic needs, regardless of their economic situation.
  • We joined the United Church of Christ to demand the Federal Communications Commission to bolster telephone and internet access for low-income Americans.
  • We collaborated with the NAACP and Center for Responsible Lending to call on Congress to include specific relief for consumers and small businesses in their emergency legislation.
  • We worked with the Southern Poverty Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union to push for measures to protect incarcerated people from exposure to COVID-19. This is crucial — Prisoners are often in poor health and live in unsanitary, cramped conditions that facilitate the spread of disease.
  • We’re calling for a moratorium on both evictions and foreclosures. We don’t want any people forced to live on the streets due to this disease.

This is just the beginning of our efforts. MCJ will continue to fight to protect Mississippians from the wrath of COVID-19.

 

Dashboards:
Dashboards provide a summary of trends, racial disparities, and geographic distribution of the coronavirus in Mississippi on a given date.

 

COVID-19 Legal Resources

 

The following are documents related to the COVID-19 outbreak from MCJ and other civil rights organizations:

How to Receive CARES Stimulus Payments While Incarcerated

CARES Act packet containing eligibility information and IRS Form 1040 

Letter to Governor Reeves encouraging more protections for vulnerable populations in Mississippi jails and prisons (3/16/2020)

Dozens of civil rights groups demand Coronavirus precautions for people in state prisons, jails and federal detention in the Deep South (3/17/2020)

Open Letter to Stakeholders in Mississippi’s Criminal Justice System (3/20/2020)

Letter to Governor Reeves regarding recommended policy decisions during the pandemic (4/2/2020)

Letter to Governor Reeves regarding public safety during the pandemic (4/20/2020)

 

OP-EDs:

Mississippi lawmakers’ response to COVID-19 inadequate. Here’s what should happen. (3/18/2020)

Decades of systemic discrimination create perfect storm for destruction (4/14/2020)

The CARES Act’s provision allowing the U.S. Department of Education to recommend waivers for federal special education requirements jeopardizes the educational futures of students with disabilities in Mississippi. (4/15/2020)

COVID-19 recovery plan needs bipartisan oversight (5/1/2020)

To recover from COVID-19, Mississippi must expand Medicaid now (6/15/2020)

COVID-19 Brings Mississippi closer to closing the digital divide (6/24/2020)

MS legislature must prioritize Medicaid expansion (6/25/2020)

 

Media Advisories:

Mississippi Mask Drive (3/30/2020)

Mississippi’s Policy Response to Pandemic (4/2/2020)

Unlawful Evictions During Pandemic (4/2/2020)

Eviction Moratorium Emergency Motion (4/27/2020)

MS Supreme Court Should End Garnishments (4/28/2020)

Lawsuit against MDOC regarding spread of COVID-19 (5/14/2020)