ALBANY, NY – FWD.us New York State Director of Criminal Justice Reform Rodney Holcombe issued the following statement today after Governor Cuomo delivered his 2021 State of the State address:
“Governor Cuomo’s State of the State promise to protect the health and safety of all New Yorkers must include incarcerated New Yorkers. We are concerned that the Governor did not address combatting the worsening COVID-19 crisis inside the state’s jails and prisons, or how he would work to prevent more harm and more fatalities behind bars. Voters made clear last fall that they wanted bold and liberatory criminal justice reforms, and it is long past time to deliver.
“Since December 1, more COVID-19 cases have swept through New York prisons than in the whole first nine months of the pandemic combined – and tragically, 10 more incarcerated people have died. Unfortunately, this was preventable. Public health experts and advocates have long predicted that the state’s failure to reduce our incarcerated population would cost lives and hurt families. Nearly ten months into the COVID-19 crisis, far too little has been done to keep incarcerated people safe.
“Additionally, the state’s pretrial jail population is nearly 27% higher than it was when the 2020 bail reform rollbacks took effect in July. This number is dangerously close to the number of people who were incarcerated pretrial before bail reform was even enacted. This increase makes clear how the reforms advocates and lawmakers worked tirelessly to pass must be protected and expanded to keep more New Yorkers safe.
“Without urgent action from the Governor, more lives will be lost. We call on the Governor to exercise his clemency power immediately and release elderly, medically-vulnerable, and soon-to-be released people from prison. We also call on him to offer priority access to the COVID-19 vaccine for incarcerated people, to work to undo the bail reform rollbacks that are driving up the state’s jail population, and to advance parole justice legislation. New Yorkers are looking to their elected leaders to deliver freedom and justice in their state, and our elected leaders must do better.”