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As COVID-19 surges in prison, thousands take action across the country

#FreeThemAll week of action features car caravans, music, holiday cards, and more

      Photo: AFSC

PHILADELPHIA (December 9, 2020) – This week, protests and events are taking place across the country to demand that people be released from prisons, jails, and immigration and juvenile detention centers. The COVID-19 pandemic puts millions of incarcerated people – as well as staff and their families – at extreme risk. The national week of action to #FreeThemAll begins on December 10 – International Human Rights Day – and ends on December 18, marking the International Day of the Migrant. Learn more and see complete event listings:

“If incarceration stopped violence, the U.S. would be the safest country in the world,” said Lewis Webb, Coordinator of the American Friends Service Committee’s (AFSC) Healing Justice work. “Instead, we have 2.3 million people in cages while our communities lack access to quality health care, education, employment, addiction and mental health services, and an approach to justice that actually addresses the root causes of violence. We believe another approach isn’t only possible, but absolutely necessary for the wellbeing of our communities.”

Now COVID-19 has dramatically increased the dangers of imprisonment. To date, there have been more than 225,000 positive cases among incarcerated people as well as staff—and more than 1,500 people have died. Participants are demanding that people be released as quickly as possible from prisons, jails, and detention centers, and that steps are taken to protect people from COVID-19.

Events for the National Week of Action range from sending holiday cards to incarcerated people, to virtual art events, to protests and car caravans. On Sunday there will be an interfaith #FreeThemAll service. See a complete listing of events here.

“Thousands of people are in immigration detention – including people who recently came to the U.S. seeking asylum and those who have lived here with their families for years before getting caught up in the Trump administration’s cruel immigration policies,” said Kristin Kumpf, AFSC’s Director of Human Migration and Mobility. “We are calling on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to immediately release everyone in their custody.”

These actions were initiated by the American Friends Service Committee – a Quaker organization that has for decades advocated that the punitive criminal legal system and immigrant detention system be dismantled. 

A listing of events is below. For the most up to date information, visit 


Carving Out Rights from Inside the Prison Industrial Complex
Thursday, December 10 (International Human Rights Day) (Virtual)

8:00 PM ET // 7:00 PM CT // 5:00 PM PT

Join us on International Human Rights Day to celebrate the Prison + Neighborhood Arts/Education Project's forthcoming book Carving Out Rights from Inside the Prison Industrial Complex (Hat & Beard, 2021) and launch the AFSC's #FreeThemAll December Days of Action for the mass release of those in prisons, jails and detention centers. 

The online event will include music by Damon Locks, poetry by Tara Betts and Eric Blackmon, and a panel discussion on human rights, abolition, and mass incarceration, as well as brilliantly crafted prints developed by artists incarcerated at Stateville prison. Register here to participate.

Write Holiday Cards for Incarcerated Loved Ones
Saturday, December 12

AFSC programs across the country will be gathering virtually to write cards to incarcerated loved ones. Search the state listings below for an event near you.

Want to organize your own card writing event? Here’s how!

Room at the TableAn Interfaith Service in Solidarity with Caged and Incarcerated Loved Ones
Sunday, December 13 (Virtual)
8:00 - 9:30 PM ET // 7:00 - 8:30 PM CT // 5:00 - 6:30 PM PT

Join us for an interfaith service to hear testimonies from formerly and currently incarcerated and caged folks and their loved ones, together facing the reality of COVID-19. Hear prayers from faith leaders calling to bring everyone home to the community table, and songs of lamentation and petition to #FreeThemAll. We will honor those caged and incarcerated by calling their names, sharing their images, and lighting a candle at our tables to free those we love from the dual cruelties of incarceration and COVID-19. Please bring your own candle and photograph of a loved one. Register here.

Call-In Zap to #FreeThemAll

Wednesday, December 16 (Virtual)
2:00 PM EST

We need every voice raised to keep the pressure on to support locally-led movements to #FreeThemAll. We are committed to getting as many people out of prisons, jails, and immigration and juvenile detention centers as possible—and abolishing these carceral facilities once and for all. Join the AFSC and partners for a powerful #FreeThemAll Phone Zap—we'll provide context and training; all you need is a phone and access to the internet!

Register here to participate

Car Caravans to #FreeThemAll
Friday, December 18 (International Migrants Day)

AFSC programs across the country will be organizing car caravans at various jails, prisons, and detention centers to demand mass release and to #FreeThemAll during the pandemic. Search the state listings below for an event near you.

Want to organize your own car caravan action? Here are some tips to get started!

Love to Black Immigrants: Teach-In + Holiday Card Writing
Friday, December 18 (International Migrants Day) (Virtual)
5:00 - 6:15 PM ET // 4:00 - 5:15 PM CT // 2:00 - 3:15 PM PT

On International Migrants Day, join the AFSC, ABISA, the Black LGBTQIA Migrant Project, Haitian Bridge Alliance and Daily Kos as we send love and care to detained Black Immigrants and learn how to combat the injustices faced by Black immigrants and asylum seekers! We will begin with a short teach-in from Black-led immigration organizations supporting our detained loved ones. Then we will spend time together, generating messages of hope and solidarity while writing cards to send to detained Black immigrants this holiday season. Lastly we will take action to #FreeThemAll from detention and deportation. As difficult as this year has been for many of us, it has been especially dire for our incarcerated loved ones. We must defund Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and demand accountability for their gross abuses and consistent violation of the rights of detained Black immigrants nationwide who experience a significant lack of access to care. Visit to sign up!


International Solidarity to Defend Human Rights Panel
Thursday, December 10 (International Human Rights Day) (Virtual)

AFSC's U.S./México Border Program, MALAYA, Detention Resistance, PUSO SD, Anakbayan SD and Migrante SD will gather online to commemorate International Human Rights Day and condemn the human rights violations under U.S. state-sponsored violence in California and abroad. RSVP at

ICE Report Release
Thursday, December 10 (International Human Rights Day) (Virtual)

AFSC's U.S./México Border Program will release a report focusing on the increase in Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) activity in San Diego County, specifically looking at arrests in communities and worksite enforcement.

Social Change in the Central Valley Webinar: From Public Office to Sustainable Community Upliftment
Monday, December 14 (Virtual)
6:00 - 7:30 PM PT

Noteworthy changes have swept across the Central Valley's political landscape over the past 10 years as an increasing number of women, younger Latinx and people of color run for public office. This Zoom webinar will provide space for dialogue between the Valley's elected officials and young adults looking at a future in which they can play a role in increasing their active citizenship. Incoming and currently serving politicians have been invited to share the map they have followed on the road to becoming elected officials, as well as the challenges they have faced along the way. We hope this webinar will contribute to increasing the public understanding of how political activism can contribute to creating a more democratic landscape in the region. Join us for this online event as part of guest speaker series with the ArteVism Fellowship Program, coordinated by the AFSC Pan Valley Institute in partnership with Fresno State's Department of Theater and Dance. Register at

Holiday Cards
Tuesday, December 15

In collaboration with Detention Resistance, AFSC's U.S./México Border Program will host a holiday card-writing event to create messages for people held at Otay Mesa Detention Center.

(RSVP details soon)

Annual Posada sin Fronteras: Rights Have No Borders/Los Derechos No Tienen Fronteras
Saturday, December 19
4:00 PM PT

(RSVP details soon)


Virtual Concert and Teach-In: A World with Everyone at the Table
Thursday, December 17

6:30 - 8:00 PM MT

Join the AFSC and Coloradans for Immigrant Rights in expressing and imagining a world without cages. The urgency to #FreeThemAll has never been greater. Together we've been sounding the alarm and demanding action month by month, day by day—hustling for that world where everyone can come back to the table. We heard from you, our community, a yearning to be invited into believing and imagining the next level of being human—a world we can touch and live into, one without jails, prisons and detention. To bring our souls, hearts, minds and bodies in this future world we've invited healers, speakers, poets and musicians. Join us to #FreeThemAll, join us in collectively getting free. There'll be creative calls to action throughout the night so be ready to participate! RSVP here for this Facebook Live event.


#FreeThemAll Holiday Card Making
Saturday, December 12
3:00 - 5:00 PM ET

AFSC Florida youth and partners will be crafting personalized holiday cards for immigrants in detention centers across Florida. Our community members should not be in cages during the holiday season nor during a pandemic. As we continue to denounce these cruel practices and advocate for their freedom, our youth have planned an evening to write holiday cards in solidarity to our community members in detention. We will be writing over 100 holiday cards to let folks know they are in our hearts and minds this season.


Gov. Pritzker, Cages Don't Stop COVID! Press Conference
Wednesday, December 9 (Virtual)
12:00 PM CT

10 months into the pandemic, thousands of prisoners across Illinois remain in full lockdown, which does nothing to protect them against the virus which sweeps through bars and devastates hundreds at a time. Family members, prisoner advocates, and survivors of incarceration are joining forces this month to take action to demand that Gov. Pritzker stop punishing prisoners for COVID-19 and instead take an active public health response. Mass release, especially of the elderly and medically vulnerable, is the surest way to ensure that people survive this pandemic.

This virtual press conference was organized by the End the IL Prison Lockdown Coalition which includes AFSC Chicago, Parole Illinois, Restore Justice, Chicago Torture Justice Center. Register for the Zoom event here. 

Holiday Card Party for Incarcerated Youth

Saturday, December 12 (Virtual)
4:00 - 6:00 PM CT

Together with partners at Liberation Library and the Final 5 Campaign, AFSC Chicago will host a virtual program to learn about the realities of youth incarceration in Illinois and efforts to end it, as well as the impacts of COVID-19 on youth incarceration and detention. Then we'll spend time together while writing notes of solidarity to send to young people on the inside. RSVP here. 

*Even though the event is virtual, we encourage attendance to stay local to Chicago/IL since we will be mailing cards and want to make sure things arrive on time.

Loud and Lit Up: A Virtual Rally to End Youth Incarceration
Wednesday, December 16 (Virtual)
4:30 PM CT

(Registration coming soon)

Have you ever wanted to participate in a mass action from home? Wished you could join a protest during COVID-19, but not able to join a car caravan? Sign up for our virtual rally co-hosted by AFSC Chicago, Liberation Library, and the Final 5 Campaign.

We'll hear testimonies from incarcerated youth and participate in collective action to free youth from detention during the pandemic. Plus surprise elements not revealed until the event begins. All participants will receive a digital booster pack to suppport their participation as we flex our collective digital muscle.


Holiday Card-Writing for Incarcerated Loved Ones
Saturday, December 12 (Virtual)
4:00 PM - 5:30 PM ET

Millions of our loved ones are locked away in cages and missing from the kitchen tables of too many families and communities. Join the AFSC's New Hampshire Program to connect with other advocates and supporters and share messages of solidarity and care with those on the inside. Via Zoom, we will connect with each other, share information about this important campaign, and listen to music together as we write our cards. Register here.

Car Rally at the Strafford County Department of Corrections

Friday, December 18
2:00 PM ET

Strafford County Courthouse
259 County Farm Rd.
Dover, NH 03820

(Registration link coming soon)

In collaboration with Never Again Action and other community partners, join us for a car rally in Manchester starting at the Valley Street Jail and ending at the Hillsborough County Courthouse and Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) building to demand "Communities Not Cages" and an end to the mass incarceration of millions of our loved ones. We stand in solidarity with our incarcerated loved ones and impacted families and communities to demand a moratorium on detentions during the pandemic; to bring attention to anti-immigrant bills that have recently been introduced at the State House; and to demand that our members of Congress cut funding to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).



Amend the 13th Watch Party
Thursday, December 10 (International Human Rights Day) (Virtual)
5:30 - 7:30 PM ET

Join us as we honor International Human Rights Day with a watch party of the film 13th, highlighting the injustices of the 13th Amendment's continuation of slavery with its 'exception clause' at part of our call to #FreeThemAll. RSVP here for this Facebook Live online event. Hosted by Amend the 13th NJ, Guazabara Insights, AFSC Prison Watch, and the Transformative Justice Initiative.


#FreeThemAll Car Caravan
Friday, December 18

(More details soon)


Where Is the the Accountability? The COVID-19 Crisis in New York's Prisons
Tuesday, December 15 (Virtual)
6:30 - 8:00 PM ET

The Riverside Church and Common Cause/NY are sponsoring a virtual panel discussion on the alarming impact of COVID-19 on incarcerated people and their families. Panelists include justice-involved individuals who survived COVID while incarcerated, community activists who are active in the fight for a more just reentry process, and family members of people who are still incarcerated. The focus of the discussion will be the challenges we collectively face in helping others stay safe during the pandemic. Click here to register.



#FreeOurPeople Vigil
Tuesday, December 15
4:00 - 6:00 PM ET

With the pandemic tearing through prisons across the state, any prison sentence is a potential death sentence. Join the Coalition to Abolish Death by Incarceration (CADBI) for an interfaith, multi-city vigil as we honor loved ones and neighbors who lost their lives behind bars due to COVID-19. We demand that Governor Wolf take action immediately to save lives by expanding reprieve to free thousands from prison. For more information, and to take action in person or at home, register at


The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that promotes lasting peace with justice, as a practical expression of faith in action. Drawing on continuing spiritual insights and working with people of many backgrounds, we nurture the seeds of change and respect for human life that transform social systems.


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