- The Washington Times
Tuesday, March 31, 2020

The top Republican on a key congressional subcommittee Tuesday demanded answers on how New York City plans to keep the public safe as it releases more than 1,000 prisoners in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Rep. Jody Hice, of Georgia, sent a letter to New York City Department of Corrections Commissioner Cynthia Brann asking how the city intends to deal with inmates who may have been infected with the virus and could spread it to others.

Mr. Hice also requested details on the impact a mass prisoner release could have on public safety. About 15 percent of New York’s police force have called out sick with coronavirus-related issues, according to media reports.

“Increasing the number of convicted criminals out on the streets — some of whom may even be carriers of the virus — while there is a significant reduction in law enforcement capacity is likely a recipe for disaster,” wrote Mr. Hice, the top Republican on the House Oversight Committee’s subcommittee on Government Operations.

“This is not the time to make things more difficult and dangerous for the heroic law enforcement officers on the front lines of this fight,” Mr. Hice continued. “If Mayor de Blasio intends to release hundreds of inmates, the public deserves to know what steps his administration is taking — if any — to keep them safe in return.”

Prisons are seen as at risk of a massive coronavirus outbreak given their lack of health equipment and and cramped quarters.

States and counties across the country are releasing hundreds of non-violent offenders to prevent the spread of the coronavirus behind bars.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he could release as many as 1,000 inmates to reduce the prison population.

Mr. Hice asked Ms. Brann to release information about inmates that have already been released or plan to be sprung soon, including their original criminal charges, results of a coronavirus test, and how much time they left to serve.

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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