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Advocates Make 11th Hour Pitch For Compassionate Release

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By: Katie Cerulle via CTNewsJunkie

Hartford, CT — Advocates seeking compassionate release from prison during public health emergencies like COVID rallied at the state Capitol hours before they saw their legislation die without action in either chamber. 

At the rally on Wednesday, protestors and advocates were demanding action from legislators to pass a bill that addresses COVID in prisons. The rally was hosted by the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice, a community organization based in Hartford that focuses on ending mass incarceration. 

According to a press release, COVID cases continue to rise in correctional facilities without appropriate health measures. 

“Without action from lawmakers, COVID-19 will continue to spread throughout Connecticut jails and prisons,” the release said. 

Kenyatta Muzzanni, director of organizations at the Katal Center, said that incarcerated people continue to live in unhealthy conditions which spreads the virus quicker among inmates than in the general population. 

“Because this is happening to incarcerated people, state lawmakers and the governor think it’s okay to not have an actual plan.” she said. 

According to the Department of Correction website, there have been 8,492 positive COVID cases and 29 deaths among inmates since March of 2020. 

Muzzanni also said that the proposed bill, SB 460, still isn’t good enough. 

“SB 460 is woefully inadequate without significant amendment,” she said. 

The bill on the calendar would have allow a three-person panel of the Board of Pardons and Paroles to review medical or compassionate parole for inmates who present a significantly “reduced risk of danger to society” but who face “a higher risk of harm” if they remain incarcerated during a declared disaster like a pandemic.

The bill would have also required the commissioner of the Department of Correction to increase the amount of early release credits to inmates whose scheduled release date is within one year of an emergency declaration.

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