New York, NY – In response to the worsening of the coronavirus pandemic and in order to lessen the burden on our court and jail systems, Council Speaker Corey Johnson urged the New York City Police Department to cease arrests for low-level offenses, including trespass, low-level minor drug possession and failure to appear in court for New Yorkers with health, family or work-related reasons. It is critical that our police, courts and justice system function efficiently.
Additionally, Speaker Johnson called on the state’s Department of Corrections and Community Supervision to stop jailing people for technical parole violations, and release those who are currently incarcerated because of a technical parole violation.
To minimize the number of individuals in our criminal justice system, Speaker Johnson also recommended that the District Attorney’s offices limit incarceration of individuals when possible. While we acknowledge that incarceration may be necessary for those charged with serious crimes, we ask for the use of bail or remand only in cases when absolutely necessary during this public health crisis.
“People who get arrested end up spending hours and hours in a small room with strangers waiting to see a judge. We know that many of these people are at higher risk for COVID-19. The potential for the virus to spread in these close quarters is enormous. We must stop forcing people unnecessarily into an environment in which the virus can easily spread. Many of them will be released within hours, so this is for the safety of all New Yorkers,” said Speaker Corey Johnson.
In addition, Speaker Johnson urged healthcare providers in city jails to identify the most vulnerable incarcerated New Yorkers in order for the judges and the district attorneys to determine who should be released to reduce public health risks during the coronavirus pandemic.
To address the crisis in immigrant communities, Speaker Johnson called the federal government to cease ICE enforcement, and release New Yorkers in ICE custody for civil immigration violations, especially given that an ICE detention employee tested positive for COVID-19.
Furthermore, Speaker Johnson recommended Administration for Children Services to stop mandating in-person check-ins for child welfare cases. It is senseless to mandate in-person meetings at a time like this, forcing parents to choose between their parental rights and their health.
“Our city is in uncharted territory, experiencing changes by the hour as we respond to COVID-19. At this time, it is critical to keep both people in custody and staff safe by minimizing entry and lessening the strain on the system. I join Speaker Johnson in calling for further reforms to ensure that New Yorkers are kept safe,” said Council member Keith Powers, Chair of the Committee on Criminal Justice.
“The public’s safety demands that the NYPD stop arresting people for low-level, victimless offenses. Just as we are taking steps to ensure that our hospitals and physicians have the capacity to treat the most critical cases over the coming weeks and months, we must make sure that our scaled-down criminal justice system remains able to handle the cases that require its attention the most. That means limiting the number of people coming into the system in order to protect our police and correctional officers, court officers and staff, district attorneys’ offices, criminal defendants and their attorneys, and everyone in the broader community,” said Council Member Rory I. Lancman, Chair of the Committee on the Justice System.
“At the time of a state and city wide crisis, it is important for the NYPD to focus on keeping every New Yorker safe by responding swiftly to 911 calls. Arresting individuals for low-level nonviolent crimes will distract the NYPD when they’re needed now more than ever. We should continue to prioritize safety and health as we endure an economic tsunami of great magnitude,” said Council Member Donovan Richards, Chair of the Committee on Public Safety.