The tightly-packed conditions in America’s prisons pose a significant risk for the rapid spread of coronavirus. Social distancing is a near impossibility within the facilities, leading the top doctor at Rikers Island to warn that “a storm is coming.”
Now, according to the Washington Examiner, President Donald Trump confirmed that he is seriously considering an executive order to release non-violent offenders of a certain age.
Squad gets their wish
Prison reform has been a platform issue for Trump as a way to lure in more minority voters. Many believe this is an issue largely being pushed by senior White House advisers Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.
New York City, which now has the largest outbreak of the coronavirus in the country, has 40 confirmed cases related to prisoners and workers within the corrections system.
President Trump was asked about the subject on Sunday night, and he stated, “We’re going to take a look at it. It’s a bit of a problem. We’re talking about totally nonviolent prisoners, we are actually looking at that, yes.”
The number of prisoners above the age of 55 in America has now reached 164,400, according to Pew Research Center data.
Releasing non-violent prisoners
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio hasn’t waited for Trump’s decision on the matter. De Blasio’s city is the current epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., and he’s already initiated drastic measures to address the rising tide of infections within his prison system.
Fox News reported that on Friday, “New York City officials approved the release of 56 detainees from Rikers Island after Mayor Bill de Blasio said earlier in the week that they would identify individuals for release, including people who were arrested for minor crimes and those most vulnerable to infection due to underlying health problems.”
“In the next 48 hours, we will identify any inmates who need to be brought out because of either their own health conditions — if they have any pre-existing conditions, etc. — or because the charges were minor and we think it’s appropriate to bring them out in this context,” de Blasio said.
De Blasio isn’t alone in his decision. According to the Wall Street Journal, “jails in California, New York, Ohio, Texas, and at least a dozen other states are sending low-level offenders and elderly or sickly inmates home early due to coronavirus fears.”
The cause has also been championed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), who recently petitioned Trump to “use [his] power to prevent COVID-19 from claiming lives” within the prison system, according to Boston.com.
Trump did not offer any further insight into the specifics of his potential executive order.