from We Love Lore

Lore Elisabeth is among the hundreds of people who have contracted COVID-19 from the U.S. Bureau of Prisons’ federal detention center in downtown Philadelphia (FDC Philadelphia). She is recovering well and helping others to weather this storm wrought by the cruelty of a few and the incompetence of a great many more. The facility continues to obstruct information and preventative care to those who need it, but you know that’s when people like Lore can help the most ????


Lore contracted COVID-19 some time between October 26 and November 6. She was especially ill with flu symptoms for about 10 days but maintained steady breathing throughout. During this time she received no medical attention save for a nasal swab test and a bottle of tylenol. She was not informed of her positive test result.

FDC Philadelphia imposed a strict lockdown on November 1 due to the rampant spread of COVID-19 throughout their building. Lore and others in the women’s unit were let out of their cells weeks later, by which time more than half of them had contracted the virus. Another detainee then informed Lore that a warning sign was hung on her cell door during the lockdown. A staff nurse eventually confirmed to Lore this meant that she’d indeed had the virus. As they continue to get sick, women are now moved into the special housing unit (SHU)—solitary confinement—for weeks at a time, a regular violation of the United Nations Convention Against Torture committed by US federal prisons.

This is infuriating, but it is not surprising. FDC Philadelphia’s inability to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep its detainees healthy has been known since the onset of the global pandemic. FDC Philadelphia’s own staff joined an OSHA complaint against the Bureau of Prisons in March, arguing that their facility constituted an imminent danger to all. A lawsuit filed in April finally succeeded by October to force the facility into at least performing regular COVID-19 tests. The case reports, the complete lockdown, and a communications blackout followed.


Hundreds of people at FDC Philadelphia have been infected since October, including dozens of staffers and correctional officers. Still, we cannot expect conditions to improve meaningfully in the near term because FDC Philadelphia’s correctional officers continue to flaunt even the most basic COVID-19 protocols, like wearing masks and social distancing. I observed this during the very brief time in October when outside visitations were allowed. COs demanded that I remove my latex gloves before entering, claiming that they attract the virus. They refused repeatedly to maintain even a reasonable distance from our mom, a senior with elevated risks of COVID-19 complications. Even with us in the meeting room, groups of 5-6 gathered closely and maskless to socialize. It is no wonder that they continue to infect people, the majority of whom are simply waiting for their day in court.

This didn’t have to happen. Since the virus took hold in the United States, public health experts have clamored for home confinement of pre-trial detainees, compassionate release of medically vulnerable and/or suffering seniors, and other provisions available to prison wardens around the country. Their pleas fall on deaf ears. Wardens have approved fewer than 2% of the compassionate release requests they’ve received. FDC Philadelphia has even less reason to worsen this crisis. The facility is primarily a pre-trial detention facility, wherein people like Lore are confined before they even get to mount a defense. This may be because they cannot buy their freedom through the abominable cash bail system or, like Lore, they are just too useful as political effigies.


We are lucky to still have Lore. We warned the US Attorney’s office that they weren’t equipped or motivated to protect Lore’s health. They countered first by blocking Lore from signing the HIPAA releases that were necessary to share her heart condition, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) affirms puts her at elevated risk for COVID-19 complications. When that failed, they falsely claimed that FDC Philadelphia could take proper care of her. Lore has been denied her prescription medications for Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT) and other conditions since she was taken into custody. I’m relieved that we don’t currently need to call the facility every day, only to be denied any kind of proof-of-life, but we must now focus on the myriad potential near- and long-term effects of COVID-19 that FDC Philadelphia will not treat.

All of this could have been avoided. We begged for the opportunity to care for Lore safely at home until her trial, which still has no foreseeable start date. Sadly, the judge decided that Lore’s charges and treatment in confinement were too obviously political in nature and extent to grant her this safety, lest others take sympathy with her and join the movements for racial justice and against police brutality.

We need to step in for a broken criminal justice system. Lore is just one of the more than 275,000 people who were forced to contract COVID-19 in a prison cell —1 out of every 5 incarcerated people in the United States. I’m very grateful to the Marshall Project for collecting these statistics assiduously throughout the year, providing us some useful perspective on the scale of the crisis, and I encourage you to donate to their efforts. Likewise, the Amistad Law Project, who organize so well on the behalf of people incarcerated by the City of Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The people incarcerated at FDC Philadelphia and other federal prisons nationwide deserve the same kind of support.


At the moment, the women’s unit at FDC Philadelphia has Lore to help them ???? Since recovering from Covid, she has been absolutely tireless in collecting public health and legal information for them, quickly becoming a kind of unofficial librarian for the group in addition to its de facto therapist ???? I’m so proud of her! I know you are, too. If you haven’t had a chance recently, please send her your love and let her know that she isn’t forgotten. (We’re using the free Ameelio app to send pics too, and it’s good!). Lore’s wishlist is also up-to-date with reading material to share with the whole unit. And if you’re feeling especially generous, donate to her fund via PayPal or Venmo. With a major fundraising goal met, this money can go to her commissary fund—mostly pre-packaged food to augment the typical meal of an apple and a peanut butter sandwich.

Please hold Lore and FDC Philadelphia’s detainees in the light with us ????☮️