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new national report: the national academies of sciences, engineering, and medicine calls for large-scale releases and decarceration to mitigate the spread of covid-19

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Kenyatta Thompson, | (860) 937-6094

Yan Snead, | (518) 360-1534

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New National Report: The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Calls for Large-Scale Releases and Decarceration to Mitigate the Spread of COVID-19


Report Underscores the Urgent Need for Gov. Cuomo to Immediately Release People from Jails and Prisons Across the State


With the Virus Continuing to Spread in Correctional Facilities Across the Country and the Recent Outbreak in Greene Correctional Facility Immediate Action is Needed to Save the Lives Incarcerated Individuals


New York, NY –  Today, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) released a new study that advises policymakers, corrections leaders, and public health officials to ramp up decarceration efforts in order to mitigate the continuing threat of COVID-19. The report amplifies the calls by community groups in New York calling for Governor Cuomo to take action to save lives in the face of COVID19. 

Lorenzo Jones, Co-Executive Director of the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice, said: “Today’s report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine makes clear that Governor Cuomo must take immediate action to decarcerate in the face of COVID-19. In the midst of the pandemic, the Governor and legislature have done little to decarcerate. In fact, they did the exact opposite by rolling back bail reform and incarcerating more people pretrial which completely disregarded public health experts recommendations to decarcerate. This is absurd. We cannot continue with this callousness while our community members beyond bars are left to suffer. Since Cuomo won’t listen to community groups and family members, maybe he’ll listen to the National Academies of Sciences. It’s time for action now, it’s time to decarcerate in the face of COVID19.” 

As of October 19th, the NYTimes reported that more than 242,00 people in US jails and prisons have tested positive for COVID-19, and at least 1,400 incarcerated individuals and correctional officers have died. But in the face of COVID-19, Governor Cuomo has largely ignored the health and well being of incarcerated people and their loved ones, leaving them to suffer. 

Jails and prisons are notorious incubators of contagions due to close quarters and unsanitary conditions. This puts incarcerated people and facility staff at heightened risk for COVID-19—and jeopardizes community members outside of jails and prisons as well. The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision last reported on October 17th that 936 incarcerated individuals have tested positive for COVID-19 and 18 incarcerated individuals have died. However, New York has not implemented universal testing and recently saw a COVID-19 surge in Greene Correctional Facility in Coxsackie, N.Y.

To save lives and keep people safe, New York needs a comprehensive pandemic plan for people incarcerated in jails and prisons. Such a plan must: implement an aggressive plan for emergency release of people from jails and prisons in New York. This must include, but not be limited to, plans to immediately release anyone incarcerated in a New York State prison or a local jail for a technical parole violation, elderly people over the age of 55, medically fragile people or people with compromised immune systems, and people near the end of their sentences. In addition to mass releases, the State must include a plan for universal and routine COVID-19 testing and monitoring for every incarcerated individual and DOCCS staff member in each facility that accounts for delayed symptomology and asymptomatic carriers. Governor Cuomo could enact such a plan immediately, but has failed to do so. 

The Governor should prioritize using his executive authority to develop and implement a plan before more needless deaths occur. The State Legislature should pass legislation to require such an action plan in the event of a pandemic and immediately pass legislation to reduce the prison population, including #LessIsMoreNY, to strengthen public safety and public health. Now is the time for action.




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