Jails in New York, California, and several other states have begun releasing some inmates from prison to prevent outbreaks of COVID-19 in the confined spaces.
Thousands are being released.
And just this week, New York City started releasing hundreds of inmates convicted of low-level and non-violent offenses who have less than one year of their sentence left.
“There’s over 500 inmates in that category,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio in a press conference on March 24. “There is a substantial group that because of very specific legal issues I’m not able to immediately release.”
The mayor added that approximately 300 inmates would be released immediately. In total, he’s looking at the eventual release over 1,000 inmates to reduce the chance of transmission of the CCP virus in jails.
NTD News refers to the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, as the CCP virus because the Chinese Communist Party’s coverup and mismanagement allowed the virus to spread throughout China before it was transmitted worldwide.
“As of Monday, 50 inmates at Rikers Island had tested positive for the virus,” according to data obtained by the Wall Street Journal.
Not Ready to Release Some
There will be restrictions, however.
“There are some who have domestic violence charges or sexual offenses charges who I have determined we are not prepared to release at this time, although we will continue to look at cases individually; I’m not comfortable releasing these individuals at this point,” he said.
But not everyone is happy with the idea of releasing inmates—for obvious reasons—like the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association (COBA), which expressed its disappointment with the decision.
“You don’t solve a public health crisis by creating a public safety crisis,” the union wrote on Twitter last week.
The founder of Blue Lives Matter NYC said the plan’s not bullet proof, in an interview with NTD News.
Despite the nonviolent nature of their crimes, Joseph Imperatrice said inmates could still commit potentially deadly nonviolent crimes, like drunken driving.
Keeping Virus Out of Jails
But he said more efforts to prevent the virus from getting into jails would be a good idea.
“There’s a lot if people who come in and out of the jail system everyday,” said Imperatrice. “So there’s a good chance that it may not have been a visitor or a worker, it could have been an individual that was brought into jail today that wasn’t there yesterday and started infecting people.”
COBA and over half of the NYC Council is asking the mayor to set up a testing facility in Rikers Island. This way workers and officers can be promptly tested if they have symptoms.
“In addition, we are also requesting that every person who enters the campus each day be thoroughly screened for symptoms of COVID-19 before they are allowed to proceed,” says the letter (pdf).
“With both of these measures in place, the city will be able to determine the full extent of the virus on Rikers and take the appropriate steps to remove individuals from the island to either a hospital or at-home quarantine, and keep everyone safe.”
We asked the Department of Correction if it would honor the council’s request, but it did not immediately reply.