Coronavirus brought a great many societal issues to the table and one of which is the way we treat people who have been incarcerated. As New York City began to shut down after the unprecedented outbreak we heard many social justice advocates push the agenda to have prisoners released. Correctional facilities are already breeding grounds for bacteria and disease and a global pandemic makes them more death camp-y than they already are.
While some inmates, like Tekashi69, were released, many had to sit it out on a hope and a prayer that prison officials would take the necessary precautions to keep them safe.
According to NYDailyNews, a 60-year-old man named Leonard Carter was convicted of murder back in the 90s but was granted parole in January. He was set to be released in just 6 weeks. Sadly, Mr. Carter will never see that release date. He died on April 14 from COVID-19.
“It is a horrifying and preventable tragedy that Leonard Carter passed away from COVID-19 a mere six weeks from his release date and having been already granted parole,” said Katie Schaffer, the director of advocacy and organizing at the Center for Community Alternatives. “For those within a year of release and those — like Mr. Carter — who have already been granted parole, there is no legitimate argument for making people complete these sentences, only a hunger for maximum punishment that will increase the death toll of this pandemic.”
Carter was being held at the Queensboro Correctional Facility where all the inmates are serving the last 120 days of their sentence. Seems reasonable that if there is that little time left on the clock that they should be released as a matter of safety. Hell, even a “violent” criminal like Mr. Carter had been granted a release, what is the point of keeping people in danger when they are so close to freedom.
“Socially distancing at Queensboro is impossible as the men sleep in dormitory-style bunks, mere feet away from each other,” said Lazara Almonte, whose son is incarcerated at Queensboro and set to be released in four months. “The thought of losing our son when he’s four months away from being released is just too much to handle. I am pleading for Gov. Cuomo to free those who are within one year of release and all those who are older or medically vulnerable. My son’s life is in your hands.”
While Governor Cuomo has been widely praised for his leadership during the coronavirus pandemic, this is clearly a blind spot that has cost lives unnecessarily.