BPI Alumna Stacy Burnett ’20 challenges legislators to listen to the voices and expertise of formerly incarcerated people in the COVID crisis in this opinion piece that was published in Salon and is reproduced below.
You don’t see us in press conferences, but we have much to teach you about the powerlessness you feel
Numbers. In the era of COVID-19, we are obsessed with them. How many people are infected? How many people have been tested? How many people have died? Am I six feet behind the next person in line? Will 25 rolls of toilet paper be enough for 30 days? As people watch their finances dwindle and their boredom expand, the anxiety-provoking math of how long we must live this way is the most difficult number to ascertain.
There are millions of citizens in this country with experience navigating numbers and managing the grief of jarring change, and we are not neatly folded into the categories of statisticians or social workers. You do not see us in press conferences, but we have much to teach you about the powerlessness you feel battling an invisible enemy while staring down the void of isolation. We are the people who have survived while being numbers inside a jail or prison, and we can help you through this.