New York City Frees 200 Inmates; Advocates Urge Juveniles Be Released

Mike Sugerman
March 26, 2020 - 7:18 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — The Legal Aid Society is urging New York City to release juvenile inmates await trial amid the coronavirus pandemic.

WCBS 880’s Mike Sugerman reports there are roughly 22 teenagers charged as juvenile delinquents in the city, and they are all sharing jail cells and bathrooms – increasing the risk of infection.

“We are talking about a relatively small number of kids who are being held while their cases are being prosecuted in family court,” says Lisa Freeman, of the Legal Aid Society.

She says the agency has gone to curt to allow the teens to go home, where she says they can be monitors in other, just as effective ways.

“Keeping them in the juvenile detention facility exposes them to a constantly changing population of other children who have not been screened for disease, in the setting in which they cannot engage in social distancing,” Freeman said.

Her organization also went to court to get some adult inmates release from Rikers Island recently.

Mayor Bill de Blasio at a press conference Thursday said the city has already released about 200 detainees from jails and plans to release around 175 more to reduce population density.

Calling a “major, major milestone,” the mayor notes that the New York City jail system has fewer than 5,000 inmates. The last time the number was below 5,000 was in 1949.

Last week, there were over 80 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the city’s justice system.

As of Thursday morning, there were close to 22,000 confirmed cases citywide and over 280 deaths.

Mayor de Blasio told WCBS 880 exclusively last week that the city would be identifying individuals who could qualify for release due to their age or medical conditions.

“No one over 70 or with pre-existing conditions should be in our jail system right now and we are working to make that a reality,” he said at the time.