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NYC district attorneys concerned over several inmates released from jail amid COVID-19 outbreak

Getting a glimpse into prison life
Posted at 11:26 AM, Mar 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-31 11:26:17-04

NEW YORK — To assist in combating the COVID-19 outbreak in New York City, officials called for the release of low-risk inmates from prison. However, the district attorneys from the five boroughs have expressed concern over several inmates being released.

In a letter from Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan, Bronx’s Darcel Clark, Brooklyn’s Eric Gonzalez, Queens’ Melinda Katz, Richmond County’s Michael McMahon and Manhattan’s Cyrus Vance, the local leaders noted that several released inmates were serving time for domestic violence or sex offenses, posing as a risk to victims.

“We were assured that the release would not include those serving time for domestic violence or sex offenses, given the risks to victims. Unfortunately, we later learned that such individuals were indeed included in the ranks of those to be released,” the leaders said in a statement.

In a statement regarding the letter to the mayor and Dept. of Correction, Clark said "We cannot ignore in our assessment the seriousness of the crime for which an inmate is incarcerated, as well the impact that their release might have on public safety. Those who currently remain incarcerated are accused of the most serious violent offenses including murder, and their release will affect public safety."

The release of low-risk inmates was done in an attempt to limit the spread of the virus on Rikers Island and other facilities. Several inmates and detainees have already been released, while officials are evaluating others.

When asked about the DAs’ concerns during an interview with “Inside City Hall,” de Blasio said he has “no evidence whatsoever that, that has not been met.”

“We said we would exclude folks who their crime involved domestic violence or sexual crimes. At the same time, I said from the beginning of this process, there's a fundamental medical and humanitarian question that if someone was in one of the high risk categories – older, over 50, and especially if they were older than that, over 60, over 70, and if they had the preexisting conditions – and anyone who has both is in profound danger – we had to balance that into the equation. So, we'll go back and talk to the DA's about it. But I do want to be clear, we stuck to those standards.”

Over 200 inmates and staff members NYC jails, including Rikers Island, have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the New York Times.

There are over 38,000 positive cases of the novel coronavirus in New York City alone, with over 900 deaths reported as of Monday afternoon, according to Mayor de Blasio.