We are in the middle of a public health crisis, where – as of today – at least 56,289 people have tested positive in New York, with at least 10,765 cases here in The Bronx. We should be investing in keeping people home, not locking people up.
In the early Friday hours, I voted NO on a budget bill that inhumanely rolls back Bail and Discovery laws that will now make it easier for more people to end up locked up behind bars, cuts Medicaid, sustains the same Education Foundation funding from last year and has no new funding for New York City Public Housing.
Jails are effectively petri-dishes for spreading this illness. In dormitories, dozens of people live, eat, and bathe in close quarters. Those held in small cells can’t get more than a few feet apart. It is impossible to keep safe from COVID-19 in jail. Employees and the incarcerated are terrified of contracting the virus, and those fears are devastatingly real, especially for the elderly and those with preexisting conditions.
Hundreds of people, including both department of corrections officers and inmates, have already tested positive for the virus. The Legal Aid Society has determined that the rate of infection at Rikers Island is at least SEVEN times higher than the rate city-wide. These jails are woefully unprepared to handle the impending explosion of coronavirus cases.
We have a decision to make. What we do in the uncomfortable moments is what defines us for future ones. Courage is displayed in the moments of great discomfort – doing right is usually not doing what is easy.
We must realize that the pandemic of poverty – health disparities, educational insecurity, and criminal injustice existed long before this virus hit our shore. It only served as a spotlight.
As an elected official, it is my duty to create justice and liberty.
Sometimes, you need more than one moment to create justice because there will be people and other elected officials along the way who will do everything they can to roll back justice. This is why we fight together.
This fight is real to me. Kalief Browder and his mother were my constituents. I have the largest proportional concentration of humans at Rikers. This is life and death for me and so many of my people.
Friends, simply put: every arrest during the coronavirus pandemic could be a death sentence.
We have the right to innocence until proven guilty – and this time, of all times, is not the time to roll back bail reform. I will not stop fighting for our most vulnerable residents, and I will not stop fighting for you.
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