Ayanna Pressley: Prisoners Are Vulnerable to the Wuhan Virus, So Let's Set Them Free

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Posted: Mar 15, 2020 11:40 AM
Ayanna Pressley: Prisoners Are Vulnerable to the Wuhan Virus, So Let's Set Them Free

Source: AP Photo/Bill Sikes, File

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), one of the coveted members of "The Squad," told Rev. Al Sharpton prisoners should be granted clemency or have their sentences commuted because of the Wuhan coronavirus. According to the member of Congress, this is one way to help alleviate the spread of the disease. 

“This pandemic, COVID-19, has certainly crossed every socio, ratio and political fault line in our country and I'm just advocating to make sure that when we’re talking about our most vulnerable – our low-income residents and citizens, those experiencing homelessness, our seniors – that we are also including the incarcerated men and women, who are certainly amongst one of the most vulnerable populations and given the crowding and overpopulating in our prisons for a confluence of other reasons ... are an ecosystem in a petri dish for the spreading of this pandemic, which is why I partnered with my colleagues, Reps. Velasquez, Ocasio-Cortez and Talib, to lobby the bureau of prisons to use the full power and to communicate guidance for how we will contain and mitigate this epidemic behind the wall," she explained.

Specifically, Pressley said she wants to know if prisons and jails have access to Wuhan coronavirus testing, if any inmates have tested positive and what their quarantine measures look like.

"Again, given the overpopulating and the fact that many of these facilities are already subpar and that many incarcerated men and women do not have access to soap, to alcohol-based hand sanitizers, to regular showers, what is the guidance, both for those incarcerated and for staff?" Pressley asked. "And that the B.O.P. use their full powers, I think now would be the time, to commute some sentences, to exact clemency and to take care of our most vulnerable. Ten percent of those incarcerated are over the age of 60 and already have an underlying condition. We should be using compassionate release."

So, if inmates are released, where do they go? Some of them have no family to stay with and their only contact with the outside world is with the very criminal organizations that landed them in prison in the first place. Should states and the feds release these inmates, drop them off in parks and let them be homeless? 

People are already in panic mode as the Wuhan coronavirus continues to spread across the world. Schools are closed, people are working from home if they have the ability to do so and some countries are on full lockdown. The last thing authorities need to worry about at a time like this is whether or not criminals are being mass-released back into society. We don't know if Pressley is talking about releasing nonviolent, first-time offenders whose sentences were extremely harsh (like Alice Marie Johnson) or if she's referring to all inmates, including rapists, child molesters and murderers. 

There's a time for "compassionate release" and now is not one of them.