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Criminal justice advocates call on Cuomo to do more to protect prisoners

April 17, 2020 Rob Abruzzese

A group called the Justice Roadmap wants to draw attention to the fact that Gov. Andrew Cuomo largely ignores updates related to incarcerated New Yorkers during his daily press briefings. The group held a press conference of their own called, “The People’s Briefing,” where they gave details about how the coronavirus has affected detainees.

Justice Roadmap is a coalition of advocates from immigration and criminal justice groups. In addition to details about what is happening behind bars, the advocates shared a petition to Gov. Cuomo that includes urgent demands they say will save lives.

“(Gov. Cuomo) has to understand that he has to value our humanity, so we’re calling on him to engage in mass clemencies,” said Jose Saldana. “That’s the only solution. The Department of Correction has already failed us. They failed us miserably. They shut down the visits, and they did not provide masks for the correction officers.”

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Gov. Cuomo has released a small number of detainees, but fewer than he publicly pledged to release. The advocates demanded that he change his narrow criteria for release in order to reduce the numbers in New York’s prisons and jails.

They also called upon the governor to pay prisoners minimum wage for all forced labor, including the production of hand sanitizer, demanded that solitary confinement be ended and asked that phone calls be made free of charge so that people can check in with family members.

The full press conference is still available online. Participants came from local groups such as the Brooklyn Defender Services, Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, Legal Aid Society, Center for Community Alternatives, Community Connections for Youth, Correctional Association of New York and Release Aging People from Prison.

During the press conference, each speaker took a moment to share their experiences dealing with clients and detainees. They discussed correction officers who deliberately walk around without personal protective equipment and pregnant women who have not been given protective supplies except for a single handkerchief.

New York’s Department of Corrections and Community Supervision claims that 165 incarcerated people and 293 staffers have tested positive for COVID-19, and that five incarcerated people have died. Many of the advocates said they doubted these numbers are true and that the reality is much worse.



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