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City is Likely to Release ‘Hundreds’ of Inmates As Coronavirus Spreads Through Jails

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March 23, 2020 By Michael Dorgan

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday that the city is considering releasing “hundreds” of inmates to slow the spread of coronavirus at its prison facilities.

The move comes after the mayor announced last week that 40 inmates from Rikers Island were set to be released on Friday. On Sunday he announced a further 23 prisoners from the city’s jail system were to be let out.

“There’s another group of about 200 inmates we’re reviewing today with the NYPD,” de Blasio said, noting that he is looking to release hundreds of inmates.

The inmates being released are said to have health issues– or are old– making them particularly vulnerable should they contract novel coronavirus. Most have a low-risk of re-offending, de Blasio said.

Inmates who are very close to the end of their sentences are also being considered, he said.

“Those are the categories we’re looking at and we’re going to announce day by day the number of people we think is appropriate and there’s going to be some people it obviously will not be appropriate to release, and we’re going to try and strike that balance,” he added.

The NYPD and the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice are making the recommendations that must be signed off on by the relevant district attorney.

There are over 5,000 inmates in New York City’s jail system, de Blasio said, half the number from six years ago.

Among them is Oscar-winning movie producer Harvey Weinstein who has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Weinstein, 68, who was at Rikers has been moved to the state’s maximum-security Wende Correctional Facility in Western New York. He is one of two Wende inmates who have tested positive, officials said.

Weinstein was at Rikers Island after being handed down a 23-year sentence for rape and sexual assault in February.

The City announced Sunday that 29 inmates and 17 Department of Correction employees at Rikers have tested positive for coronavirus.

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