BOSTON (CBS/AP) — Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins said Thursday she wants low-risk prisoners freed to prevent the coronavirus from spreading.
“In these uncertain times, where the landscape is changing minute by minute, District Attorney Rollins is working to make sure that individuals held in custody who are vulnerable because of their health, age, socio-economic status, or circumstances, but pose no meaningful risk to public safety are released from custody,” her office said in a statement.
Rollins acknowledged that in some cases it will be too risky to release a prisoner. But she said she’d work with the criminal defense bar “in identifying those individuals whose release we deem urgent and necessary for public health reasons.”
“While Americans across the country are being encouraged to self-isolate, members of our incarcerated population are, by definition, doing the exact opposite with no alternative options,” she said. “We need to seriously consider pathways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 for our incarcerated populations, the overwhelming majority of which will return to our communities at some point in the future.”
Rollins is also pushing the courts to only hold suspects on cash bail if there is a legitimate concern for public safety.
There have been 72 confirmed cases of coronavirus so far in Suffolk County.
“If one person gets it there, it’s gonna spread, I think, very quickly,” Rollins said. “And then we would be dealing with a quarantine situation there that is really troubling.”
Rollins is not alone. In New York, public defenders asked judges to release older and at-risk inmates from the city’s beleaguered federal jails, saying pretrial confinement “creates the ideal environment for the transmission of contagious disease.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday that over the next 48 hours the city will identify any inmates held in minor charges it thinks should be released because of their health. He said it’s a balance of “public safety with the very real concern about health in the jails.”
In Middlesex County, DA Marian Ryan said she’s working with authorities to review the bail status of people “with specific health considerations.”
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)