Congresswoman Calls For Release Of Prison Inmates Due To Virus
New York, NY – Massachusetts Representative Ayanna Pressley is using the COVID-19 pandemic to help justify her call for the release of prison inmates.
The Bureau of Prisons has the “authority to exact clemency, commutations and compassionate release, and they should be doing that,” Pressley told Al Sharpton during an MSNBC interview on Saturday.
The congresswoman referred to prison inmates as a “vulnerable” population akin to seniors, low-income residents, and the homeless.
She also noted that many of prison facilities are “already sub-par.”
“This pandemic, COVID-19, has certainly highlighted and exasperated every socio, ratio, and political fault line in our country,” Pressley declared.
She described herself as an advocate for the nation’s “most vulnerable” citizens, to include “incarcerated men and women.”
“Given the crowding and overpopulating in our prisons for a confluence of other reasons that we won’t get into…[they] are an ecosystem and a petri dish for the spreading of this pandemic, which is why I partnered with my colleagues, Representative [Nydia] Velasquez, [Alexandria] Ocasio-Cortez, and [Rashida] Tlaib, to lobby the Bureau of Prisons to use their full power and to communicate guidance for how we will contain and mitigate this epidemic behind the wall," she told Sharpton.
Pressley claimed that inmates “do not have access to soap, to alcohol-based hand sanitizers, and to regular showers,” thereby placing them at further risk.
“Now would be the time to commute some sentences, [and] to exact clemency,” she suggested. “We should be using compassionate release.”
Pressley said that the Board of Prisons’ response to the call for action made by her and her fellow congresswomen was “woefully inadequate.”
She said she was encouraged to learn that inmates will be able to call their loved ones for free while visitation is shut down, but said that such efforts “should have been happening anyway,” even before the onset of COVID-19.
She then blasted New York officials for “exploiting” inmates for labor.
“Getting paid 26 cents on-the-dollar to produce alcohol-based hand sanitizer that they can’t even use themselves is unconscionable,” Pressley declared.
The congresswoman also complained about the hand sanitizer development program shortly after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled the plan on March 9.
Cuomo said that the sanitizer would be used in public transit stations, schools, and government buildings, and that it would not be sold to the public, the Washington Examiner reported.
New York inmates have been making as much as 100,000 gallons of the product each week, according to the Wall Street Journal.
But Pressley said that the program was “demeaning” and “exploitive.”
“Wow. Considering that many incarcerated men & women are subjected to inhumane conditions, including no hand soap, & hand sanitizer is banned in most prisons, this is especially demeaning, ironic & exploitive,” she tweeted later that day.