A coalition of advocacy groups on Monday urged lawmakers to focus on the issues facing prison inmates during the pandemic.
The call came as the Senate and Assembly held a joint legislative hearing on the effect coronavirus has had on black and Latino people in New York.
Public health statistics have shown people of color are more likely to be infected with the virus and have higher fatality rates.
But at the same time, advocates point to people in prison who cannot socially distance and remain vulnerable to the virus as well.
“COVID-19 has exposed the results of policy failures like mass incarceration,” said Kassandra Frederique, the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Jails and prisons were not safe before the pandemic and they’re certainly unsafe now. Black people aren’t inherently more vulnerable, it’s race and place.”
The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision as of Monday afternoon reported 462 inmates have tested positive for the virus; 1,204 prison staff have as well.
Sixteen inmates have died.
The Cuomo administration has started moving some inmates out of state prisons, including pregnant women and inmates older than 65 with non-violent felony convictions who were already scheduled for release later this year.