The New York City Board of Corrections issued a call Tuesday for the city to dramatically decrease the population of city jails amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Wow. Unprecedented call from NYC Board of Correction (the independent oversight body for NYC’s jails) calling on the City to rapidly decrease its jail population.
— Brad Lander (@bradlander) March 17, 2020
The statement read, in part:
Emergency release will minimize the number of people in jail and staff needed on-site during public health crisis. Fewer people in jails will prevent transmission. Release must prioritize people at higher risk from infection.
The stated goal was to contain the spread of coronavirus by reducing the number of prisoners — which would allow those who remained incarcerated to be spread further apart in order to limit their contact with other prisoners. (RELATED: Jim Banks Says China Could Repay US For Coronavirus, Starting With ‘Significant Debt Forgiveness’)
Significantly fewer people in jail will limit the spread of COVID-19 infection among people in custody and those who work in the jails, minimize the number of people in custody who will need medical care, decrease the density of housing areas for people who remain in jail, and allow New Yorkers to maintain connections with and support from their loved ones.
The Department of Corrections gave a list of criteria that should be considered when prioritizing prisoners for potential release:
- People who are over 50
- People who have underlying health conditions including heart disease, diabetes, lung problems, cancer or an otherwise compromised immune system
- Administrative prisoners — people imprisoned for parole violations or failure to appear
- Anyone serving a year or less
The Board of Corrections also advised that, once prisoners meeting those criteria were released, the city should consider releasing additional prisoners in order to further reduce the population of the prison as well as the staff necessary to keep it running efficiently.