OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — With the surge of coronavirus cases across the state, community activists are campaigning to get elderly people who are incarcerated pardoned and out from behind bars.
"They’re incarcerated okay, but let us not lose our humanity or compassion because they are incarcerated. There are several of long sentences who are at risk even more than the rest of the population and may I say, the numbers are up everywhere including our incarcerated brothers and sisters," Preston Love Jr., a community activist and leader said. "Let’s try to minimize that risk for them in a humane sort of way."
While the group is working to get a number of people out from prison, the movement stemmed from worry about Edward Poindexter, who's been imprisoned for 50 years. Poindexter was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of the 1970 killing of police officer Larry Minard.
Poindexter has a number of pre-existing conditions that increase his risk of contracting COVID-19. Love Jr. said Poindexter has done his time and shouldn't have to die from the virus.
"He’s been a wonderful example of what the prison system is supposed to be about and what do we do to reward him? We say just sit right there until the COVID gets you? That’s just a shame on us if we don’t see the bigger picture. This is a man with a great mind and has done a lot during his time in prison," Love Jr. said.
Representatives from the ACLU of Nebraska say that even with a life sentence, prisoners weren't convicted to these circumstances.
"They’re being locked down most of every day to segregate them and prevent spread of the disease to other inmates. And so it’s far worse than anybody anticipated and significantly these folks long since paid for their crime. Judges didn’t sentence these people to the conditions they are in. Most judges wouldn’t if they knew and so that calls for executive action," Adam Sipple, Legal Director for the ACLU of Nebraska said.
Sipple said that before the pandemic, prison facilities weren't giving proper medical attention and resources to people who are incarcerated and now, months into the COVID 19 pandemic, those issues have been magnified.
Poindexter and his supporters have continuously claimed his innocence and while Love Jr, believes so as well, he said he's not confident that a claim of innocence would get Poindexter released in time.
"I don’t have the confidence, and time is short, so that’s why our focus is on the humanity, the compassion side of it because that alone regardless of his innocence or his being guilty should overcome any other thought on this case," Love Jr. said.