NEW ORLEANS, La. – Over 150 faith leaders, organizations, family members of incarcerated loved ones, and advocates signed on to a letter this week urging Governor John Bel Edwards to immediately sign the commutations on his desk. For some, his signature is the only barrier to freedom for grandparents, parents, siblings, children, and friends. Many of those waiting have already spent decades behind bars and were long ago approved by the Board of Pardons. Some are now battling illness from COVID-19 which they contracted in Department of Corrections (DOC) custody.
According to the Louisiana Department of Health, there are more than 30,600 cases of and over 2,100 deaths from the highly contagious and deadly virus COVID-19 in Louisiana. Positive tests have been confirmed at almost every DOC facility. Despite pressure in recent weeks to save lives and slow the spread by reducing the prison population, Governor Edwards has suggested that the COVID-19 pandemic and outbreak in carceral facilities is not relevant to the commutations. Advocates have stated that compassion and decency are most needed during this pandemic and no one should die while waiting for a signature from the Governor.
A campaign to free Louisiana’s longest serving female prisoner is highlighted in the letter, which reads, “After 48 years in prison, Gloria, affectionately known as Mama Glo by the countless incarcerated women she has mentored… is currently at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, on oxygen to breathe, struggling to survive COVID-19. Her comorbidities, including hypertension and pulmonary nodules, put her at increased risk from the virus she contracted at LCIW. As a DOC patient in the hospital, her family has had to go days without updates on her condition and your signature for her commutation would grant an immediate change to the rights and access her loved ones would have during this terrifying time for her children and sisters. Mama Glo is 74 years old and her commutation was given a unanimous recommendation by the Board of Pardons in July of 2019.”
Gloria’s sister, Rita Tyler, says, “We can’t get regular updates right now on Gloria’s health while she’s in the hospital with COVID the way other families can call and talk to the nurses. We are terrified that as she gets better she’ll be returned to the prison where she caught the virus. We pray every day for Governor Edwards to send Gloria home to us.”
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