Prison Cells
Prison Cells
Photo Credit: FrankvandenBergh/Getty Images

Brooklyn District Attorney Stops Prosecution of Low-Level Crimes Due to Spread of Coronavirus

Prison Cells Photo Credit: FrankvandenBergh/Getty Images

As the coronavirus continues to spread, the Brooklyn DA releases a statement regarding low-level offenses following Ohio's move to possibly release inmates.

Hundreds of inmates from the Cuyahoga County Jail in Cleveland, Ohio could potentially be released due to coronavirus concerns. According to WJHL in Cleveland, judges at the Cuyahoga County Court are concerned about the virus spreading through the jail.

The report highlights that the Cuyahoga County judges also held a special morning session on Saturday to address the settlement of cases. The cases in question included those with guilty pleas and the decisions would be to either release the inmates and send them to prison or release them on house arrest. 

Administrative Judge Brendan Sheehan shared in a recent Fox report that inmates are already in poor health. He also said it wouldn’t take much for the coronavirus to spread behind bars. 

Sheehan added that he hoped for hundreds of inmates to be released and that almost any type of inmate would be considered. In a statement he detailed, “You gotta remember, the goal of this is to protect the community and the safety of the inmates,” he said. “If someone’s a serious violent person, well, we’re using our discretion to make sure the community’s safe also.” He later shared that the jail may need empty space in the case that some inmates have to be quarantined for the virus. 

In Louisiana, the ACLU has already called for expedited parole hearings for elderly people in state prisons. The organization has also asked for the release of all people jailed awaiting charges and trial who aren’t considered a risk to public safety. 

Alanah Odoms Hebert, ACLU of Louisiana executive director released the following statement:

"Given the CDC’s warnings about avoiding confined spaces and the threat COVID-19 poses to the frail and elderly, immediate steps must be taken to safeguard the health and well-being of incarcerated people across the state."

CNN previously reported that the country’s 122 federal prisons and a high number of 1,700-plus state prisons have banned visitors and volunteers. The Federal Bureau of Prisons announced the ban on Friday. 

On Tuesday, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez issued a statement expressing he'd "immediately decline" to prosecute low-level crimes that don't jeopardize public safety due to the spread of coronavirus.

The official's statement also read, "During this public health emergency, it is imperative that we also protect those who might be exposed to Coronavirus during the procedures of arrest, processing and detention in Central booking." Gonzalez also wrote that his defenders should alert his office of those who have clients in pre-trial detention who are vulnerable to infection.

Since COVID-19 has hit New York City, it has led to widespread shutdowns. Movie theaters, cafes, and popular restaurants are currently shuttering their doors.

Read his entire statement below.

This article was first posted on March 16, 2019, it was updated on March 17.