While the country’s taking drastic measures to slow the spread of Coronavirus and protect vulnerable populations from the highly infectious and deadly disease, New York City has taken a unique and potentially dangerous approach: releasing prisoners.
In a press briefing last week, NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio announced the city will be releasing over 900 inmates to avoid spreading Coronavirus throughout the city’s jails.
According to The Hill, “the city would release hundreds of nonviolent offenders, with those accused of offenses such as domestic abuse not eligible for release.” Because of the close confinement, jails have been called a hotspot for disease spread.
However, things rarely go as planned, and the implications of this decision means dozens of potentially dangerous criminals who’ve committed heinous acts could be up for release.
One such release occurred last week when “State Supreme Court Justice Mark Dwyer freed Pedro Vinent-Barcia, 63, and 15 other inmates after the Legal Aid Society filed a petition arguing that their detention exposed them to serious medical harm in the midst of a pandemic sweeping through city jails,” according to the New York Post. Vincent-Barcia was arrested and charged with stabbing his girlfriend to death, in public, in 2018. He had also non-fatally stabbed a previous girlfriend back in 1993. Now, he’s out on the street.
Mayor De Blasio’s decision to release potentially dangerous criminals irked the city’s District Attorney’s enough for them to pen a letter to the Mayor calling for him to change their criteria for who can be released and who should remain behind bars, citing the violent characters who’ve been nominated for release.
In a letter sent to De Blasio and the MOJC, the five DA’s of NYC said,
We fully appreciate the unique risks that the COVID-19 virus poses in our jails, and we agree that the number of those incarcerated must decrease to limit the spread of the virus on Rikers Island and in other facilities. At the same time, we want to make clear that the categories of those proposed for release have, in some instances, included individuals who pose a high risk to public safety. In such instances, we have communicated our concerns, but these concerns have not always been heeded.
As an example, when we learned last week that the Commissioner of Corrections was about to use her authority to order an across-the-board release of hundreds of inmates serving city sentences, we were assured that the release would not include those serving time for domestic violence or sex offenses, given the risks to victims. Unfortunately, we later learned that such individuals were indeed included in the ranks of those to be released.ABC News
New York DA’s are weary of the Mayor’s decision to release who they perceive as dangerous criminals, rather than keep them locked up. While District Attorney’s across the city agree with De Blasio’s decision to release some nonviolent, high risk offenders, they do not believe the people being recommended for release are nonviolent.
Defendants from bank robberies turned deadly and cheesecake assassins were also among the list of people recommended for release by the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice (MOCJ).
A portion of one of the lists obtained by ABC News revealed that MOCJ requested that high-profile defendants Ransom, Freeman and Nasyrova be released.
Freeman, 26, and Ransom, 28, are alleged armed robbers charged in connection with the February 2019 death of NYPD Detective Brian Simonsen, who was killed by friendly fire. Nasyrova, 45, is accused of attempting to kill a woman in 2016 with poisoned cheesecake in order to steal her identity and remain on the run for a murder she allegedly committed in Russia.ABC News
The New York Post is reporting that 300 Rikers prisoners have been released and put up in hotel rooms and were given cab fare and cell phones to use during their vacation away from prison. The inmates were chosen because they were either showing COVID-19 symptoms or because they were homeless upon release due to vulnerability to the disease.