John Legend, Joaquin Phoenix Beg NY Governor Andrew Cuomo To Reduce The State's Prison Population Amid COVID-19 Pandemic
This week, Grammy winner John Legend and Oscar winner Joaquin Phoenix joined prison reform advocates in calling on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to release some of the state’s prison inmates during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Legend tweeted a video on Tuesday where he explained that the spread of the coronavirus in jails and prisons is threatening the health and safety of New Yorkers.
“When someone is incarcerated, there is no such thing as social distancing, and ensuring good hygiene is not an option,” said the singer-songwriter. “Leaders must do everything possible to prevent incarcerated people, and those who work in prisons, from becoming ill and spending the virus.”
Legend continued in his video by saying that now is the time for Governor Cuomo to act, and he can make New York communities safer and healthier by reducing the prison population. Legend asked Cuomo to grant immediate clemency to people who are close to their release date, people who are incarcerated for parole violations, and inmates who are vulnerable because of their age and underlying health conditions.
“Gov. Cuomo, free them now. Thank you and hope you are having a good week, take care,” said Legend.
The Release Aging People in Prison Campaign also posted a video from Phoenix this week that featured the Joker star explaining the importance of releasing prison inmates.
“I'm calling on governor Andrew Cuomo to take action in New York by granting clemency to New Yorkers in prison,” said Phoenix. “The lives of so many people depend on his action. No one deserves to die in prison from COVID-19.”
Governor Cuomo does have the power to grant clemency to anyone serving time in a New York State prison, according to the state’s constitution. This means that he can reduce a sentence or grant the release of any inmate.
According to Page Six , Governor Cuomo did order the release of 1,100 low-level parole violators in late March because of COVID-19. But, the Release Aging People in Prison Campaign is asking for more. The activist group fights for elderly prisoners who are given “death-by-incarceration” sentences.
As of April 14, there have been 618 prison employees, 150 prisoners, and 24 parolees in the New York State prison system who have tested positive for COVID-19. Four incarcerated individuals have died, as well as four parolees and one Department of Corrections and Community Supervision employee.