As the novel coronavirus responsible for the outbreak of COVID-19 continues to spread, there is a growing chorus of people calling for the release of prisoners who either no longer pose a threat to society or committed nonviolent offenses and are vulnerable to contracting the disease. President Donald Trump has expressed an openness to using his clemency powers to release elderly nonviolent prisoners from federal prisons.
In Massachusetts, some like Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins have called for the release of low risk offenders from custody. In Middlesex County, where the most known COVID-19 infections are, District Attorney Marian Ryan and Sheriff Peter Koutoujian have also said they are reviewing cases for early release.
In Bristol County, Sheriff Thomas Hodgson has said that he does not believe prisoners should be released early because jails have adequate protocols for handling pandemics.
Andrea Cabral, the former Sheriff of Suffolk County and public safety secretary refuted Hodgson’s assertion and said that no jail can be prepared for an outbreak of COVID-19 because so little is known about the virus.
“It is insane to say that adequate protocols already exist for a disease about which you know virtually nothing,” Cabral said during an interview with Boston Public Radio Thursday. “The second [assertion] is that inmates have access to better healthcare inside the facility than outside the facility. That’s not true.”
Cabral is the former Suffolk County Sheriff, former secretary of public safety, CEO of Ascend