1 Lauren-Brooke Eisen, et al., Letter: Further Release of New York State Incarcerated Population at Risk of Coronavirus Infection 1 (2020)

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BRENNAN

CENTER

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March 30, 2020

The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224

Re: Further Release of New York State Incarcerated Population at Risk of Coronavirus Infection

Dear Governor Cuomo:

The novel coronavirus represents an unprecedented crisis for the State of New York. We write
today to urge you to use your full authority as Governor to release as many people as possible
from incarceration for the duration of the pandemic, focusing on people who are especially
vulnerable to infection. Specifically, we recommend you take the following steps, which we
explain in depth below:

    *  Use your clemency authority to commute the sentences of vulnerable people to time
       served, allowing their immediate release, or fashion other appropriate relief;
    *  Expand the State's Merit Time Program to reduce overall incarceration; and,
    *  Work with state prosecutors to keep people who have been convicted of crimes, but not
       yet sentenced, out of prison for the duration of the crisis.

With nearly 60,000 New Yorkers already testing positive for COVID-19, and likely tens of
thousands of additional New Yorkers sick from the virus, the scope of this pandemic presents
extraordinary challenges to state and local officials, including prison officials, law enforcement,
and those responsible for our systems of justice.' We are grateful for your efforts to keep all New
Yorkers safe during this pandemic.

We also applaud your Friday, March 28 order announcing the release of 1,100 people being held
on parole violations from jails and prisons across the state, 600 of whom were held in New York
City jails. This is an important first step toward ensuring that some of those who are in our
state's jails and prisons can remove themselves from the close quarters and often unhygienic
conditions in our correctional facilities. As you are aware, prisons and jails are places where
communicable diseases spread rapidly. This is because incarcerated people often live in the same
cells, are double-bunked, and have to share toilets, sinks, and soap (if they are lucky enough to



' New York State, County by County Breakdown of Positive Cases, last modified March 28, 2020,
ht ps://coronavirus.health.ny .ov/county-county-breakdown-positive-cases; World Health Organization,
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Report 68, https://www.who.int/docs/default-
source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200328-sitrep-68-covid- 19.ndf?s fvrsn=384bc74c 2.


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