Protesters demand clemency for prisoners fearing COVID-19 spread

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — There’s a growing outcry for clemency for prisoners facing an outbreak of COVID-19 behind bars.

A caravan of vehicles circled the Governor’s Mansion in Albany on Tuesday. It was full of protesters demanding clemency for prisoners in the time of COVID-19.

“He has the power. He can release whoever he wants, whenever he wants,” said Thomas Kearney.

Kearney served 17 years in prison. He once lived in the tight quarters where the virus now appears to be spreading.

“Double bunked — 40, 50, 60 men to one dorm. That’s ridiculous, especially during a public crisis.”

The New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision says they are currently identifying inmates for early release.

They must:

  •  Be 55 years old or older
  •  Be within 90 days of their release date
  • Not be an undue risk to public safety

The criteria would exclude sex offenders and most felonies

DOCCS says they have currently identified approximately 171 individuals.

Anya: “What would you like to see?”
Kearney: “Anyone with, no matter how old they are who has a compromised immune system.”
Anya: “Do you feel that people who are listening to you might say, ‘Well, wait a minute. If this person has been convicted of murder or a sex offense, I’m sorry- I don’t want them to die, but I don’t want them to be out in my community where they could possibly reoffend.”
Kearney: “These people are going to be out again the community sooner or later anyway.”

When asked for comment about their own concerns, New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association, the union which represents corrections officers, sent NEWS10 ABC this statement, which read in part:

“The risks are very real — we have lost three members to this pandemic and hundreds have tested positive. Despite that, our members remain committed to doing their part until this crisis is over”

NEWS10 did reach out to prison employees. Those who responded said they did not wish to comment fearing the loss of their jobs.

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