Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley argued now is the time to commute the sentences of some federal prisoners who are vulnerable to the coronavirus outbreak.
Pressley, who is a member of the liberal contingent of four women in Congress known as “the Squad,” told Al Sharpton on his MSNBC show Saturday that she and some other Democrats are advocating for the “compassionate” releases of inmates.
“This pandemic, COVID-19, has certainly exasperated every socio, ratio and political fault line in our country. And I’m just advocating to make sure that when we’re talking about our most vulnerable — our low-income residents and citizens, those experiencing homelessness, our seniors — that we are also including the incarcerated men and women, who are certainly amongst one of the most vulnerable populations. And given the crowding and overpopulating in our prisons for a confluence of other reasons … are an ecosystem in a petri dish for the spreading of this pandemic, which is why I partnered with my colleagues, Reps. Velasquez, Ocasio-Cortez and Talib, to lobby the Bureau of Prisons to use the full power and to communicate guidance for how we will contain and mitigate this epidemic behind the wall,” she said.
Pressley listed reasons why some inmates should be released, including overpopulation and access to coronavirus testing.
“Specifically, do they have access to testing? Secondly, has anyone tested positive, and what are the quarantine measures? Again, given the overpopulating, and the fact that many of these facilities are already subpar, and that incarcerated men and women do not have access to soap, to alcohol-based hand sanitizers, and to regular showers: What is the guidance for those incarcerated and for staff?” said Pressley, who also mentioned exacting “clemency” to take care of the “most vulnerable” inmates.
Pressley recently condemned New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to use prisoners to make hand sanitizer to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, calling it “demeaning.”
“Wow. Considering that many incarcerated men & women are subjected to inhumane conditions, including no hand soap, & hand sanitizer is banned in most prisons, this is especially demeaning, ironic & exploitive,” Pressley said last week.