New York – The Civil Liberties Union of New York has reported Monday the death of Michael Tyson, the first prisoner of the Rikers Island Municipal Jail to lose his life due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Tyson, 53, who died Sunday at Bellevue, part of the public hospital system, sued Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Department of Prisons and Community Oversight (DOCCS) along with other inmates last April for their automatic incarceration policy for violation of parole.
“We are devastated by Tyson’s death. This was a tragedy that could have been prevented. If he had not been automatically jailed for an alleged technical violation of probation, he could still be with us,” the civil rights organization said in a statement.RELATED
“We have known for more than a month that overcrowded conditions in Rikers put people at serious risk of contracting the coronavirus,” the organization said.
Tyson was on Rikers Island from last February 28 until he was transferred to Bellevue on March 26, and his death occurs as pandemic cases continue to rise in the prison system.
According to data from the New York Times, which cites the Prison Department, 273 inmates, 321 employees, and 53 of its health workers have tested COVID-19 positive.
The advance of the pandemic led to the authorities in recent weeks releasing prisoners who do not pose a danger to the community to prevent the spread of the virus in the prison, considered one of the most dangerous in the country.
However, public defenders and activists have called for more inmates to be released.
“Officials moved slowly and were unable to free enough vulnerable people despite calls from across the city, state and country,” says the ACLU. He adds that the lawsuit calls for the release of all detainees in New York City jails for alleged parole violations to prevent further tragedies such as Tyson’s death.
“New York must dramatically reduce its prison population and take immediate steps to reduce the risk to anyone who remains incarcerated,” the ACLU also notes.
The ACLU recalled that when someone is jailed for an alleged parole violation, the Jail Oversight Department must hold a hearing within 90 days to determine whether such violation occurred and whether the person’s parole should be revoked.
However, for nearly one in five arrests, the parole revocation hearing takes place after the required 90-day period, and as a result of the pandemic, they were almost entirely suspended.