Save Lives, Do Not Put More People in Jail Especially During a Pandemic.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins, Speaker Carl Heastie

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New York State is in the midst of an unprecedented health crisis. To protect the health and wellbeing of all New Yorkers, we must do everything possible to flatten the curve of the pandemic.

Jails are dangerous incubators for COVID-19. The COVID-19 pandemic has made plain the abysmal conditions inside local jails and state prisons across the country and in New York State that have existed for decades. Social distancing is impossible in the close-quarters of New York’s jails. Hand sanitizer is contraband and access to soap, toilet paper, and handwashing facilities is highly limited.

Bail reform passed last year by the NYS legislature is working. Each day in February 2020, there were 6,800 fewer people incarcerated pretrial in New York’s jails than in February 2019. This is 6,800 people who are not exposed to heightened risk of contracting COVID-19, people who are not subject to the trauma of pretrial jailing or the violation of their constitutional rights.

Bail reform rollbacks would exacerbate a public health crisis. However, Governor Cuomo and the Senate Majority - caving to fear-mongering - have proposed regressive rollbacks which would increase the number of people unjustly in jail without a trial. This is not only inhumane, but threatens further spread of the coronavirus.

In addition to decarcerating jails by upholding bail reform, we also need to release people from New York's 52 state prisons who are particularly vulnerable to the COVID-19. There are currently more than 10,000 older people in New York State prisons, and many others who are immunocompromised and at serious risk of being harmed by the virus. Many of these New Yorkers have already spent decades in prison. The Governor has the unilateral power to grant them relief, save lives and reunite families by granting them clemency. Releasing them would also uphold universal public health standards and allow the state to reinvest millions of dollars into critical community resources.

In order to prevent further spread of illness and loss of life, Governor Cuomo and New York’s Legislature must do everything possible to release the greatest number of people from incarceration, including but not limited to:

1.) Immediately cease attempts to rollback bail reform.

2.) Grant clemency to and release all older adults aged 50 and older, people with HIV/AIDS, people with chronic illnesses (including lung conditions such as COPD, asthma, hepatitis, diabetes mellitus, hypertension and/or cardiac disease, cancer), other immunocompromised people, people with comorbid medical conditions, pregnant people, criminalized survivors of gender and sexual violence, and trans people.

3.) Order DOCCS to consent to the release of all people detained on technical parole violations.

We need your help to protect our loved ones and communities. Sign the petition.

Cosponsoring organizations:

New York Communities for Change

Center for Community Alternatives

Bend the Arc: Jewish Action

JustLeadershipUSA

Brooklyn Community Bail Fund

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights

Citizen Action of New York

Color Of Change

FWD.us

New Hour for Women and Children - LI

The Release Aging People in Prison Campaign

VOCAL - NY

Make the Road New York

Working Families Party

To: Governor Andrew Cuomo, Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins, Speaker Carl Heastie
From: [Your Name]

New York State is in the midst of an unprecedented health crisis. Each day, the number of New Yorkers diagnosed with COVID-19 increases exponentially. To protect the health and wellbeing of all New Yorkers, we must do everything possible to flatten the curve of the pandemic.

Local jails and state prisons are dangerous incubators for COVID-19. Social distancing is impossible in the close-quarters of New York’s jails. Hand sanitizer is contraband and access to soap, toilet paper, and handwashing facilities is highly limited. The Board of Correction, which oversees New York City’s jails, has requested that the city and state drastically reduce the number of people incarcerated as part of the public health response to COVID-19.

Bail reform rollbacks would exacerbate a public health crisis. Last year, New York State made the responsible decision to pass long overdue bail reform legislation. However, Governor Cuomo and the Senate Majority - caving to fear-mongering - have proposed regressive rollbacks which would increase the number of people unjustly in jail without a trial. This is not only inhumane, but threatens further spread of the coronavirus.

Many of the people now spared pretrial jailing under New York’s bail reform law would have spent 1-3 days incarcerated pretrial under the prior system. These “short-stays” provide no safety benefit, while destabilizing families and risking greater spread of COVID-19 in both jails and the surrounding community.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made plain the abysmal conditions inside jails and prisons across the country and in New York State that have existed for decades. Reducing the incarcerated populations in all facilities must be the on-going focus of government.

Bail reform is working. Each day in February 2020, there were 6,800 fewer people incarcerated pretrial in New York’s jails than in February 2019. This is 6,800 people who are not exposed to heightened risk of contracting COVID-19, people who are not subject to the trauma of pretrial jailing or the violation of their constitutional rights.

In addition to decarcerating jails by upholding bail reform, we also need to release people from New York's 52 state prisons who are particularly vulnerable to the Coronavirus. There are currently more than 10,000 older people in New York State prisons, and many others who are immunocompromised and at serious risk of being harmed by the virus. Many of these New Yorkers have already spent decades in prison. The Governor has the unilateral power to grant them relief, save lives and reunite families by granting them clemency. Releasing them would also uphold universal public health standards and allow the state to reinvest millions of dollars into critical community resources.

In order to prevent further spread of illness and loss of life, you must do everything possible to release the greatest number of people from incarceration, including but not limited to:

1.) Immediately cease attempts to rollback bail reform.

2.) Grant clemency to and release all older adults aged 50 and older, people with
HIV/AIDS, people with chronic illnesses (including lung conditions such as COPD, asthma, hepatitis, diabetes mellitus, hypertension and/or cardiac disease, cancer), other immunocompromised people, people with comorbid medical conditions, pregnant people, criminalized survivors of gender and sexual violence, and trans people.

3.) Order DOCCS to consent to the release of all people detained on technical parole violations.

We need your help to protect our loved ones and communities.