Anti-Incarceration Activists’ Calls for Releasing Prisoners Due to Coronavirus Pandemic Begs the Question: Who Exactly Should Be Let Out?

Consistently major media fails to point out empirical evidence showing that 95% of people in prison are NOT low-level drug offenders or pot smokers that so many believe fill our prisons.

Prisons should get educated as to how to handle COVID-19 when it hits.
Prison riots in Columbia on March 21 have led to 23 prisoners being killed.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told a local radio station on Wednesday that in “the next 48 hours, we will identify any inmates who need to be brought out because of either their own health conditions — if they have any pre-existing conditions, etc — or because the charges were minor and we think it’s appropriate to bring them out in this context.”

20% of all state and federal prisoners are for drug offenses.

Criminal-justice reform advocates from across the political spectrum urged President Trump on Tuesday to use his clemency power to commute the sentences of inmates eligible for “compassionate release” and others who could be at risk, particularly the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions.

“This is a real disaster waiting to happen,” David Patton, the executive director of he nonprofit Federal Defenders of New York, said Sunday, the day after the first federal inmate tested positive at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn. “These are places that are particularly susceptible to contagion.”

In Iowa, the state corrections department said it will begin this week to release about 700 inmates who were already deemed eligible for release by the Iowa Board of Parole.

And in Mercer County, in far western Pennsylvania, the county jail released 60 of 308 inmates — nearly one in five — to free up two cell blocks for the quarantine of anyone exposed or infected with the coronavirus.

“We’re not putting low-level punks in jail at the moment,” said Peter C. Acker, the district attorney.

Regardless, many advocates, defense lawyers and health and some corrections officials fear that inmates and prison workers across the country will die because releases have been too few and too late.

“A storm is coming,” Ross MacDonald, the chief medical officer for New York’s Correctional Health Services, which includes the notorious jail at Rikers Island, wrote on Twitter last week. “We have told you who is at risk. Please let as many out as you possibly can.”

“Contrary to conventional wisdom,” according to a new working paper, “parental incarceration has beneficial effects on children, reducing their likelihood of incarceration by 4.9 percentage points and improving their adult socioeconomic status. . . . Sibling incarceration leads to similar reductions in criminal activity.”

Based on the preliminary and foreseeable effects of New York’s reform, a strong case can be made that the Empire State’s current bail regime creates an imbalance in favor of criminal defendants, to the detriment of the public’s safety.

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Writer. Researcher. Designer. Human seeking better outcomes for all. Empiricism, relevant facts, and logical arguments > simple narratives.

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David Shuey

Writer. Researcher. Designer. Human seeking better outcomes for all. Empiricism, relevant facts, and logical arguments > simple narratives.