NY Needs A Compassionate Early Release Law For COVID-19 Susceptible Inmates

A 23-year-old was released from prison where he was serving a federal sentence for racketeering, based upon the imminent threat of death from COVID-19. His “only” health problem was asthma, a disease prevalent among prison inmates.  The lucky inmate was hip hop artist Tekashi69, whose real name is Daniel Hernandez.

Judge Paul Engelmayer, a federal judge in Manhattan, stated in his decision:

The COVID-19 pandemic is extraordinary and unprecedented in modern times in this nation. It presents a clear and present danger to free society for reasons that need no elaboration. COVID-19 presents a heightened risk for incarcerated defendants like Mr. Hernandez with respiratory ailments such as asthma.  The Centers for Disease Control warns that persons with asthma are at high risk of serious illness if they contract the disease. Further, the crowded nature of municipal jails such as the facility in which Mr. Hernandez is housed present an outsize risk that the COVID-19 contagion, once it gains entry, will spread. And, realistically, a high-risk inmate who contracts the virus while in prison will face challenges in caring for himself.

Under the federal compassionate early release law, federal courts have the authority to release persons who are incarcerated due to “extraordinary or compelling circumstances” such as imminent death or serious incapacitation.  That was the law used to release Hernandez.

New York needs a law permitting the release of inmates susceptible to COVID-19 due to age or medical conditions. If a 23-year-old rapper was released from federal prison solely due to asthma, fairness dictates that a large number of New York State’s inmates with heightened susceptibility to death from coronavirus should also be released.  Surely the 23-year-old rappers lungs were in better shape than many other inmates with asthma.

However, without a compassionate early release law in New York State, many inmates will die because they do not qualify for immediate release through a habeas corpus proceeding based upon “illegal detainment.” Illegal detainment is much harder to establish in court than asthma. New York State’s inmates deserve the same right to survival of this pandemic that rich and famous federal inmates enjoy.

LeNoir Law Firm encourages everyone reading this to take some step — even if it just means telling someone about it — to advocate for a compassionate release law in New York to save the lives of the inmates most vulnerable to COVID-19.  Even if the law does not arrive in time to protect inmates from this outbreak, there will be other epidemics of deadly infectious diseases that will have a disproportionate effect on prisoners.

We are currently offering free initial telephone consultations to help as many incarcerated people as possible.  If you are concerned about an inmate’s susceptibility to COVID-19, we encourage you to contact the LeNoir Law Firm right away to learn your legal options.

S. John LeNoir, Esq.

2585 Broadway, Suite 251
New York, NY 10025
Tel:  212-531-0284
Email:  info@debtinversion.com