Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) is attempting to use the Chinese coronavirus pandemic as a means to pursue progressive “decarceral policy” by calling for the release of older criminals from the Rikers Island complex, declaring the United States “must ensure” it is granting “elderly clemency.”
The New York lawmaker made the remarks during an appearance in a virtual roundtable discussion on the coronavirus, hosted by her candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), on Sunday. She told viewers progressives need to “really hit fast forward on progressive developments and pursuing decarceral policy” during the coronavirus pandemic.
That “decarceral policy” includes what Ocasio-Cortez has dubbed “elderly clemency,” or the release of older incarcerated individuals, particularly at Rikers.
“I represent New York’s 14th Congressional District which covers the Bronx and Queens, and it includes Rikers Island. Now we have been pushing for criminal justice reforms for a very long time, and decarceral policy,” she said.
“And one thing that we need to do right now is really hit fast forward on progressive developments and pursuing decarceral policy because people’s lives are at risk. There are people in jails right now, in situations that are completely destitute and wrong,” she continued, adding there are “so many people crammed into certain cells in Rikers.”
Ocasio-Cortez cited the reports of 21 individuals at Rikers testing positive for the virus and used that as a catalyst to push for “elderly clemency” for people not just at Rikers but “in prisons throughout the United States.”
And 21 incarcerated individuals have already tested positive for COVID-19. Those are folks who have been able to get tested. And as we know, tests are very limited. They are rationed for people who are already exhibiting quite extreme symptoms so we have no idea how much this outbreak is going out. So there are a lot of things we are asking for. One, we need to provide elderly clemency. There are plenty of people on Rikers that have been 60, 70, 80, 90 years old, who quite literally need someone to take care of them and they’re still kept in a cage in Rikers Island and in prisons throughout the United States. We need to ensure that we are granting elderly clemency in the United States.
The freshman lawmaker also said we need to “stop unnecessary pre-trial detention” and “stop arrests for low-level offenses.”
Ocasio-Cortez, however, is far from the first to float a coronavirus “jailbreak.” Cities across the country — including Los Angeles County, California; Cook County, Illinois; and Cuyahoga County, Ohio — have released inmates in some form as a means to curb the spread of the coronavirus, as Breitbart News detailed.