New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is seeking to release nearly “all” elderly offenders from Rikers Island amid the global coronavirus pandemic on the basis that allowing them to run free in society would be safer for them (but not society) than forcing them to remain incarcerated in a tightly controlled government facility.
“My strong view is at this point I want to follow the exact same categories that I heard from [National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director] Dr. Anthony Fauci in terms of those who are most in danger,” he announced at a press conference early Tuesday afternoon.
“Dr. Fauci told me last week that anyone over 70 years old or anyone with one of those five major preexisting conditions — those are the people most likely to be in danger. This is my view. No one over 70, no one with any of those five conditions should be in our jails right now.”
In tweets posted early Wednesday morning, he noted that his current plan calls for releasing “approximately 300 people with misdemeanors and non-violent felonies” via executive fiat. He also referenced cases “outside my jurisdiction.”
We’re making important decisions about our City jails. No one over 70 or with pre-existing conditions should be in our jail system right now and we are working to make that a reality.
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) March 25, 2020
There are approximately 300 people with misdemeanors and non-violent felonies that I’m going to move to release immediately. For those that fall outside my jurisdiction, I am alerting the State and District Attorneys to my concerns.
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) March 25, 2020
While Fauci has repeatedly stressed the immense risk faced by elderly Americans (a risk that some elderly Americans are willing to accept), it’s not clear that he’s ever explicitly called for older convicted inmates to be released.
“If you look at the people who wind up getting into serious difficulty and even dying, that’s very heavily weighted toward individuals with underlying conditions, particularly the elderly,” he said earlier this month on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends.”
“That’s the reason why we have been saying lately how important it is to protect those vulnerable people by making sure no matter where they are right now, not a month from now, but right now, the people with the underlying conditions need to distance themselves from crowds, not travel, not get on long air flights and certainly not get on a cruise ship.”
Listen (disable your adblocker if the video doesn’t appear):
(Source: Fox News)
While that’s sound advice, it’s unclear how removing elderly inmates from a tightly controlled government facility and into the bustling world would behoove them.
Continuing his presser Tuesday, de Blasio stated that he personally believes “all” inmates at high risk of contracting the coronavirus should be released and indicated that releasing some of them will require overcoming certain legal hurdles.
“We have to work through some very intense, complicated legal issues, case by case,” he said. “In the case of those individuals, some I have the direct power to release. In other cases, that can only be done with the approval of the state of New York or the district attorney.”
“But that category of people — those in immediate danger because of the specific nature of the coronavirus — I strongly believe they should ALL be released.”
Listen to his remarks below:
What he said about facing “intense, complicated legal issues” and wanting to release “ALL” inmates suggests that, besides releasing “approximately 300 people with misdemeanors and non-violent felonies,” he’s also seeking to release more dangerous convicts as well. His past leniency toward the criminal community certainly fits.
“Mayor Bill de Blasio’s latest soft-on-crime initiative has workers stationed on Rikers Island presenting newly released jailbirds with free transit passes and two $25 debit cards each,” the New York Post reported in December. “Plans even call for the addition of prepaid, “burner”-style cellphones and drawstring bags for the ex-inmates to carry their swag.”
He’s also responsible for a “bail alternative” program instituted in 2016.
Despite his calls for “all” elderly inmates to be released, later during Tuesday’s presser the mayor admitted that he’s willing to make an exception for those convicted of domestic violence or sexual offenses.
“There are some who have domestic violence charges or sexual offense charges who I have determined we not prepared to release at this time, though we will continue to look at the cases individually,” he said. “I’m not comfortable releasing those individuals at this point.”
That being said, he added that he’s looking to also eventually release hundreds of other inmates, including those waiting for trial and those who violated parole.
Listen to the whole presser below:
Join me at City Hall for the latest on New York City’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.
Posted by Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday, March 24, 2020
Some of his constituents seem displeased by his announcement.
What?? Already a lot of crimes since you’re in office. Now this. Whatever!
— Camelia Ayllon (@kami41reason) March 25, 2020
Criminals should not be released! Sorry, but that’s BS! They are already in place, just prohibit any new entries! Put all jails on lock down! All workers on strict work to home policies!
— Mind Garden (@MindGarden4) March 25, 2020
Are you nuts? What are you saying to the criminals out there. Who is going to take care of the law abiding citizens. You all have gone crazy!!
— Julie budwine (@JulieBudwine) March 25, 2020
the inmates held at Rikers are not “trapped”
They are convicted felons, and being held as such. If they, or others like then are released it will be pandemonium!!
— ICEY (@Annie_IceGirl) March 25, 2020
Do you think these criminals are going to quarantine themselves now they’re out? No. They’ll commit crimes. Moron.
— David Carpenter (@DavidCa19370834) March 25, 2020
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