Appeal to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

20 March 2020

As leaders of the nonprofit reentry organizations signing below, we have proudly served on the Governor’s Reentry Council (New York State Council on Re-entry and Re-integration).

Collectively, we serve thousands of men and women in prison and under community supervision, and appreciate the opportunity we have had to draw on our experience to advise your office on best practices and policies that contribute to the successful release and reintegration of formerly incarcerated individuals. 

We are aware of the extraordinary efforts that you and our state officials are making to keep New Yorkers safe, served and supported.

It is in that spirit that we call on you to release older and immune-compromised men and women who are incarcerated in New York’s state correctional facilities and who are at highest risk of contracting and spreading Covid-19. 

The people who live and work in our state prisons are at special risk, and in addition to our health concerns for those whom we believe should be released, decreasing density in our facilities will make it safer for all who remain incarcerated as well as for your and our workforce.

We understand you may be concerned that many of those whom we call upon you to release will need supportive services, including transition planning, income supports, Medicaid, care management, and linkages to health care, jobs, education, training, and housing.

We stand ready to provide the necessary services and supports that would ensure that every individual released in response to the current crisis is connected to one of our organizations, or to our colleagues in the nonprofit, faith, housing and healthcare sectors who are best positioned to meet their needs.

We believe that there are hundreds of older and vulnerable adults in DOCCS facilities who could be released using multiple strategies:

  • Clemency (including many whose clemency applications are already in your office)
  • Medical furloughs for those healthcare needs would be better served in the community
  • Immediate release for people already scheduled to be released on Parole, Conditional Release, or a definite sentence within 90 days
  • Advancing parole re-hearing dates to April for anyone denied parole by a split or two-person board
  • Immediate review and simplified decision-making on applications for medical parole
  • Vacating parole revocation warrants or immediate revocation and restoration (Revoke and Restore) under appropriate conditions relevant to risk of contracting Covid-19

We want to assure you and the public that should you heed the nearly universal call from correctional healthcare professionals to release vulnerable populations from incarceration in the wake of this unprecedented health crisis, we are committed to supporting you and the men and women who should – and we hope will – come home. 

Alliance of Families for Justice
Soffiyah Elijah, Executive Director

Bard Prison Initiative
Max Kenner, Executive Director

Buffalo Urban League
Brenda McDuffie, President/CEO

Center for Community Alternatives
David Condliffe, Executive Director

Center for Employment Opportunity
Sam Schaeffer, CEO/Executive Director

The Doe Fund
Felipe Vargas, Vice President

Exodus Transitional Community
Julio Medina, Executive Director

Fortune Society
JoAnne Page, President

Hudson Link for Higher Education
Sean Pica, Executive Director

Legal Action Center
Paul Samuels, President

Osborne Association
Elizabeth Gaynes, President

Prisoner Reentry Institute at John Jay College
Ann L. Jacobs, Executive Director

Women’s Prison Association
Georgia Lerner, Executive Director