Rep. Ayanna Pressley is calling for the compassionate release of some federal prisoners who are most vulnerable to the coronavirus pandemic.
During an appearance Saturday on MSNBC, the Massachusetts Democrat and “Squad” member told host Al Sharpton that prisons “are an ecosystem in a petri dish for the spreading of this pandemic.”
“I’m just advocating to make sure that when we are talking about those that are 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,” Ms. Pressley said.
“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. [Nydia] Velasquez, [Alexandria] Ocasio-Cortez, and [Rashida] Tlaib, to lobby the Bureau of Prisons to use their full power and to communicate guidance for how we will contain and mitigate this epidemic behind the wall,” she continued.
The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) on Friday released its immediate plans to address the COVID-19 outbreak, including suspending all social visits for 30 days and curtailing legal visits, as well as giving prisoners extra phone time and suspending inmate transfers between prisons.
Ms. Pressley said the BOP’s announcement was “woefully inadequate” and that the agency should use its authority to exact clemency, commutations and compassionate release.
“I think now would be the time to commute some sentences, to exact clemency and to take care of our most vulnerable,” she said. “Ten percent of those that are incarcerated are over the age of 60 and already have an underlying condition. We should be using compassionate release.”