HARRISBURG — Today, three criminal legal reform groups issued a statement in response to Governor Tom Wolf’s announcement that he plans to use his powers of reprieve to make eligible for release some 1,500 to 1,800 incarcerated people from Pennsylvania to lower the risk of the spread of COVID-19 and protect public health.
On March 18, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, the Abolitionist Law Center, and Amistad Law Project sent a letter to Governor Wolf, urging him to take immediate action to expedite the releases of people from state prisons who are at high risk of contracting COVID-19 and others who can be safely released.
The following statement can be attributed to Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania:
“This is an excellent first step by Governor Wolf. It must not be the last step. Public health experts say that Pennsylvania is on the verge of bending the curve of outbreak of this pandemic. If an outbreak were to occur in a Pennsylvania prison or jail, it could threaten to erase the progress we’ve made in the commonwealth. Extreme outbreaks of COVID-19 in jails in New York and Illinois show the danger that awaits Pennsylvania if public officials do not act swiftly. Today, we applaud the governor but with the sober acknowledgement that more needs to be done. The clock is ticking.”
The following statement can be attributed to Kris Henderson, executive director of the Amistad Law Project:
"We are heartened by this important first step to reduce the impact of COVID 19 on incarcerated people and DOC staff, and encourage the governor to do more. We call on the Department of Corrections to make a list of elderly and vulnerable people who are not covered by the current reprieve order and who should be granted reprieve, and we call on Governor Wolf to let them come home so countless lives can be saved.”
The following statement can be attributed to Robert Saleem Holbrook, director of community organizing at the Abolitionist Law Center:
"This is a welcome first step in preventing a health calamity in the state prisons. We will continue advocating that Governor Wolf grant reprieves to all who are older than 55, who have the lowest recidivism rate and who are the most at risk from COVID-19. Releasing the elderly is necessary to flatten the curve and protect public health.”