Even the most ardent supporters of criminal justice reform among New York City’s District Attorneys are objecting to a plan by Mayor Bill De Blasio to release hundreds of inmates from the city’s jails, including several deemed to be high risk offenders by prosecutors.
The NY Post reports the five DA’s in the city have penned a letter to De Blasio outlining their objections and concerns to his plan, which he says would only release non-violent offenders and those with little time remaining on their sentences.
“Our review of the lists provided to date has led us to consent to the release of many hundreds of individuals due to their age and/or health condition; the nature of their charged crime; or the length of their remaining sentence,” reads the letter to Hizzoner and DOC Commissioner Cynthia Brann.
“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,” the letter says.
The joint missive goes on to that “in those instances” the DA’s “have communicated our concerns, but these concerns have not always been heeded.”
“As an example, when we learned last week that [Brann] 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,” the letter states. “Unfortunately, we later learned that such individuals were indeed included in the ranks of those to be released.”
On Sunday, De Blasio said the city had released 650 prisoners to date, but ABC News is reporting that local and state officials are seeking to release about 1,500 inmates statewide, including several with violent criminal histories.
Two men allegedly involved in a robbery where a New York City police detective was killed in friendly fire were among the violent offenders on the list of inmates slated to be released from the infamous Rikers Island jail complex due to the coronavirus pendemic, until prosecutors intervened, multiple sources told ABC News.
Christopher Ransom, 28, and Jagger Freeman, 26, were charged with armed robbery in connection with the February 2019 shooting death of NYPD Detective Brian Simonsen. They appeared on a list of names obtained by ABC News that also included Viktoriya Nasyrova, 45, who was accused of trying to kill a woman in 2016 with a poisoned cheesecake.
While there’s an argument to be made that low-level, non-violent offenders could be released early or under home monitoring without a substantial risk to public safety, that argument doesn’t apply when we’re talking about violent criminals. And while Mayor De Blasio is doing his best to clear the city’s jails and return criminals to the streets, gun stores in the city are closed. Of course any New York City resident hoping to acquire a firearm for home defense at the moment is out of luck anyway, since the city’s gun laws mean residents routinely wait for months simply to get permission to keep a gun in their home.
The mayor’s moves come as fifteen-percent of the New York Police Department called out sick on Monday, and after at least three members of the NYPD have died from the coronavirus. So far, the police commissioner says they can handle the large number of officers out sick, but with the city still at least two weeks away from the peak of the pandemic according to current estimates, it’s anyone’s guess as to how long that will be the case.