NYC DAs Raise Concerns Over Planned Prison Releases That Include ‘High Risk’ Inmates

By Janita Kan
Janita Kan
Janita Kan
Janita Kan is a reporter based in New York covering the Justice Department, courts, and First Amendment.
March 31, 2020Updated: March 31, 2020

New York City’s five district attorneys and a special narcotics prosecutor have criticized Mayor Bill de Blasio over his plan to release prison inmates, including those who may pose a “high risk to public safety” amid the CCP virus outbreak.

The top prosecutors for the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Staten Island, Queens, and special narcotics prosecutor Bridget Brennan sent a letter to de Blasio and his correction commissioner Cynthia Brann informing them that they had reviewed the list of inmates proposed for release but expressed concern that some of those inmates included are considered “high risk” to the community.

“[W]e want to make clear that the categories of those proposed for release have, in some instances, included individuals who pose a high risk to public safety,” the letter said. “In such instances, we have communicated our concerns, but these concerns have not always been heeded.”

“As an example, when we learned last week that the Commissioner of Corrections was about to use her authority to order an across-the-board release of hundreds of inmates serving city sentences, we were assured that the release would not include those serving time for domestic violence or sex offenses, given the risks to victims. Unfortunately, we later learned that such individuals were indeed included in the ranks of those to be released,” it added.

The letter went on to express concern that “little consideration” was given “to the housing, supervision and support-service needs of the individuals who are being returned to communities.” The prosecutors said that if it is not addressed, “will only compound the possible health, safety, and other risks, both to the communities and to the individuals at issue.”

“At this point, the seemingly haphazard process by which at-risk inmates are identified, and the reports that those released may include violent offenders, are creating a public perception that our city’s jails may be incapable of providing sufficient health care for the remaining population of inmates,” the letter continues.

“We believe this perception is wrong, especially given the recent reduction in the city jail population, and the increased housing options in city jail facilities that should be available as a result,” it added.

This comes after de Blasio said on Sunday that the city had released over 650 inmates as of March 28 in order to reduce the city’s prison population in an attempt to mitigate risks of an outbreak in prisons.

“I can update you and say that since this crisis began, our jail population is down by about 860, not just because of the releases, but because we’ve seen falling crime and, and lower arrests,” de Blasio said during the news conference.

In response to the letter, de Blasio told Inside City Hall that he had “no evidence” that the city had broken its promise to exclude inmates from release who pose a high risk to the community.

“I think the only area where there might be some misunderstanding or disagreement is there were some specific medical cases that were really aberrant, if you will, within the formula,” he said on March 30. “The original formula we put forward, we said, if you’re City sentenced, you don’t have, by definition, even a year to serve—the most you can serve as a year. A lot of people only had a months to go on their sentence. We wanted to see those people out for the good of everyone to protect not only them, but everyone else who’s still there by spreading out the population and allowing for more distancing.”

“And we said we would exclude folks who their crime involved domestic violence or sexual crimes,” he added.

The mayor’s office did not immediately respond to The Epoch Times’ request for comment.

The letter also called for the mayor and Brann to “provide reassurance” that the city is able to create a secure model of inmate care that other municipalities will follow, that those who must be detained will receive the resources needed to live in sanitary conditions and with medical care, that the city has a plan for treatment and oversight to care for inmates who have contracted the virus, and that while reviewing candidates for release, consideration of public safety would be included.