Top Republican on Oversight subcommittee wants answers on de Blasio’s coronavirus inmate release

Published: Mar 31, 2020

Today, Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, asked for answers on New York City’s plan to protect the public while releasing potentially dangerous and contagious inmates amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter to NYC Department of Corrections Commissioner Cynthia Brann, Ranking Member Hice requested information about Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announced plan to release over 1,000 inmates in response to the city’s coronavirus outbreak.

“This is simple: Americans are already worried enough about their wellbeing as a result of the coronavirus emergency and now is not the time to put their health and safety at further risk,” said Mr. Hice.

“This is also not the time to make things more difficult and dangerous for the heroic law enforcement officers on the front lines of this fight,” he added. “If Mayor de Blasio intends to release hundreds of inmates, the public deserves to know what steps his administration is taking — if any — to keep them safe in return.”

Excerpts from the letter:

“We are concerned about the New York City Department of Correction’s recent efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19 by releasing potentially dangerous and contagious inmates back into the city. The purpose of this letter is to understand how the Department plans to execute this release and what mitigation efforts are in place to ensure public health and safety.”

“This is not a theoretical problem. On March 17, a man imprisoned for a parole violation and deemed “non-violent” was released from detention in Utah as part of the State’s COVID-19 response. Two days later he allegedly broke into a home, tied up the homeowner, and threatened to ‘cut her head off’ if she didn’t stop screaming and give him all her cash, credit cards, and PIN numbers.”

Background:

Last week, Mayor de Blasio announced plans to release 300 inmates from Rikers Island and other city facilities in addition to working on the release of another 800 inmates.

As of Monday, the NYPD reported that 5,199 members of its workforce were on sick leave and that 930 of its members had tested positive for COVID-19, including 824 uniformed officers.

As of Tuesday, the NYPD had lost five members of its ranks to the virus including a detective and a school safety officer.

On Monday, a group of the city’s District Attorneys criticized de Blasio and Brann’s “seemingly haphazard process” of identifying inmates for release and said that “the categories of those proposed for release have, in some instances, included individuals who pose a high risk to public safety.”

FULL TEXT OF THE LETTER IS AVAILABLE HERE.