Digital rallies call for release of select inmates to prevent virus spread
A call was made Monday to release select inmates from Long Island jails and state prisons to prevent infections within the facilities during the coronavirus pandemic.
Virtual rallies and news conferences were held throughout the day Monday, organized by groups calling for the release of inmates housed in local jails and state prisons.
Among those News 12 spoke to is a mother whose son is currently in Nassau County Jail.
"They have not had their trials, they have not been convicted, they live in very close quarters," she says. "I just feel as a parent that it's only a matter of time before something happens, and it's going to be a catastrophe."
Susan Gottehrer, head of Nassau's chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union, says it's important to decrease the jail population.
"We're talking about people over 50, and we're talking about people with underlying conditions," says Gottehrer.
Officials say there are three inmates in the East Meadow jail who have tested positive for COVID-19. Those inmates are currently in isolation. There are zero known cases in Suffolk jails.
So far, 30 inmates have been released from Nassau County Jail and 15 from Suffolk since March 1. Meanwhile, 650 people have been freed from Rikers Island in New York City.
Brian Sullivan, president of Nassau's Union of Correction Officers, says jails are already less populated since bail reform laws went into effect. Statistics show there are nearly 400 fewer inmates in Nassau as compared to this time last year. The figure is close to 600 fewer in Suffolk.
"I think it's absurd they can say putting the public in that much greater danger is a good idea," says Sullivan. "This is just the same people who were 100% for bail reform, and in my opinion they're using the coronavirus to further that crazy progressive agenda."
Nassau County Sheriff James Dzurenda further detailed in a statement: "Friday evening, NYS Parole lifted four parole warrants and released those individuals. Last Monday, March 23rd, we released 13 individuals on ROR status and 24 individuals on time served. I trust the decisions of the District Attorney's Office and NYS Parole that these inmates would be better served back in the community where they were going to be released anyway."
Suffolk Sheriff Errol D. Toulon, Jr released a statement as well, saying, "The courts have jurisdiction on releasing or remanding people into custody. If we receive such an order, we will follow it as any others. We have good policies in place to help protect the inmate population from illness, so I don't think the public needs to be overly fearful about coronavirus when it comes to the Suffolk County Correctional Facility. However, it's a fluid situation. We are constantly monitoring inmates for signs and symptoms, and we are also monitoring staff. We are doing our best under these circumstances."
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