Rep. Pressley on Coronavirus Possibly Spreading to Prisons: ‘Now Would Be the Time to Commute Some Sentences’
SHARPTON: "Congresswoman, as we look at this, there is deep concern about the underserved communities on how they are going to be tested, how — if we can get the Senate to pass what you and your colleagues did last night, how will that play out in areas that don’t have a lot of health services in the immediate area? How do we deal with this?"
PRESSLEY: "Well, what I’ve been focusing on, rev, in my role on oversight is certainly all those vulnerable communities already lefing on the margins, as you alluded to earlier. It has crossed every socio and political fault line in our country. When we’re talking about our most vulnerable, our low-income residents and those experiencing homelessness and seniors and that we are also including the incarcerated men and women, who are amongst one of the most vulnerable populations and given the crowding and Overpopulation in our prisons for a confluence of other reasons we won’t get into in this interview, are an ecosystem in a petri dish for the spreading of this pandemic, which is why I partnered with my colleagues, representative Velasquez to use the follow power for guidance on how we will contain and mitigate this epidemic behind the wall. Do they have access to testing, has anyone tested positive and what are the quarantine measures? The fact that many of these facilities are already subpar and they do not have access to soap, to alcohol-based hand sanitizers and regular showers, what is the guidance for those incarcerated and for staff? And that the B.O.P. Use their full powers, I think now would be the time to commute some sentences, to exact clemency and to take care of our most vulnerable. 10% of those incarcerated are over the age of 60 and already have an underlying condition."
SHARPTON: "Now, the B.O.P., the bureau of prisons, do they have a plan? Have they responded to those lawmakers that have joined you in raising these questions? Because we’re talking about people’s lives here."
PRESSLEY: "Absolutely. And bearing in mind that 95% of those incarcerated will be released. This is an imminent public health threat for those currently incarcerated and ultimately will be released. They did respond to the letter, not within the time line that we outlined but their response was woefully inadequate. I’m encouraged while they have stopped visits, that phone calls will be free, but these are the sorts of basic things that should have been happening anyway, which is why I did introduce the people’s justice resolution, a radical reimagining of our criminal justice system that centers the humanity and dignity. Be de-privatizing phone calls, et cetera. And being charged for hand sanitizer they can’t use use themselves a unconscionable."