Gay City News: Advocates Demand Help for Vulnerable Prisoners, Homeless Folks

“There is also attention on the plight of individuals in custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which was already tied to poor living conditions before the coronavirus outbreak. The Bronx Defenders and the Legal Aid Society on March 23 filed for a temporary restraining order intended to bring about the release of ICE clients who are at most at risk of contracting coronavirus.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced at a March 23 press conference that 75 people have been released from city jails, with up to 200 more releases forthcoming pending a review process. He also said the city is increasing healthcare services for those in city custody and stressed that there is a great deal of space available on Rikers Island because of the reduction in the city’s jail population in recent years.

At a separate presser, Cuomo announced he would consider granting clemency to certain incarcerated individuals, but additional details were not provided and a spokesperson for the governor did not return requests for further information about that on March 23.

In the meantime, inmates at Rikers have begun to take actions of their own to push back against official inaction on the coronavirus risk. At least 45 inmates are refusing to leave their dorms for work duties or meals, citing the lack of personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies for inmates as well as their crowded living conditions — which are at odds with the social distancing taking place on the outside. The inmates are demanding that all folks be released if they are over 50, are at high risk due to health conditions, or are sentenced to less than one year.”

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