Jailors and prosecutors across the U.S. have started taking steps to stem the spread of COVID-19 in the country’s overcrowded prison system, including the early release of some prisoners, WGBH reports.
In Massachusetts, at least six district attorneys have announced steps to early release sick and elderly prisoners. Rachel Rollins, District Attorney for Suffolk County, Massachusetts, said supervisors are reviewing requests for release by prisoners who “pose no meaningful risk to public safety.”
“While Americans across the country are being encouraged to self-isolate, members of our incarcerated population are, by definition, doing the exact opposite with no alternative options. We need to seriously consider pathways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 for our incarcerated populations, the overwhelming majority of which will return to our communities at some point in the future.” — Rollins, in a statement
In New York City, the BBC reports that jailors will release “vulnerable” prisoners as per an order by Mayor Bill De Blasio.
In Los Angeles, the sheriff’s department already released some 600 inmates last week. “Our population within our jails is a vulnerable population just by who they are, where they are located, so we’re protecting that population from potential exposure,” Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva said last week.
Cannabis advocate and entrepreneur Steve DeAngelo issued a video statement last Thursday and shared a petition for the release of all cannabis prisoners and incarcerated individuals who are particularly at risk from the deadly virus. There are still more than 44,000 Americans serving prison sentences for nonviolent cannabis offenses.
Meanwhile the virus has already been found in several jails around the country. In total, the CDC on Friday had confirmed just over 15,000 coronavirus cases in the U.S. with 201 reported deaths. On Monday, that number more than doubled as the CDC reported 33,404 total confirmed cases and 400 deaths.
We at Ganjapreneur encourage you to sign the petition to encourage immediate government action on this issue. While the cannabis industry has been deemed essential by governments that generate tax revenue from its existence, many nonviolent prisoners who are elderly–or have underlying health conditions–are extremely vulnerable to the virus and have no way to protect themselves.
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