Activists Push For Vulnerable Prisoners To Be Released As Coronavirus Spreads

Criminal justice advocates
Photo credit Steve Burns/WCBS 880

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- Criminal justice advocates in New York are calling for older and more vulnerable prisoners to be granted clemency before the coronavirus spreads in prisons. 

Jose Saldana of the Release Aging People in Prison campaign says he knows from first-hand experience how the prison system deals with outbreaks.

"Their response has always been predominately focused on punishment," Saldana told WCBS 880's Steve Burns.

He and other advocates are calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to commune the sentences of older inmates who are at a greater risk of dying from coronavirus.

Saldana says they are not a risk to public safety and "have been mentors and educators for decades."

Saldana was also angered by Cuomo's announcement of a new hand sanitizer, produced by inmates, calling it "a slap in the face" and saying that the inmates were being paid pennies for their work. 

Rich Azzopardi, a spokesperson for Cuomo, didn't respond to the clemency request, but he did say that screening protocols are being enhanced for visitors.

Azzopardi also said the sanitizer manufacturing is part of a job training and skill development program that's been in place for years.