Judge Rejects Release of Inmates

Says Putnam doing enough to keep them safe

A state judge on Wednesday (May 20) rejected a petition to release eight inmates who defense attorneys argued are at risk of contracting COVID-19 while at the Putnam County jail.

Judge Victor Grossman dismissed the petition, which had been filed May 5 by David Squirrell, chief attorney for the Putnam Legal Aid Society.

Grossman ruled that while “there can be no doubt that the presence of a communicable disease in a prison can constitute a serious, medically threatening condition,” the jail’s “reduced population” and measures taken to limit the risk of transmission give the inmates “no basis” for release.

“This court neither has the power to alter, amend, or reduce a sentence, nor can it provide an early release,” the judge wrote.

In a Facebook post after the ruling, Sheriff Robert Langley Jr. wrote: “No one will be released early and all will serve their time for the crimes they have committed.”

No inmates at the jail have tested positive for COVID-19. The jail, which has 128 beds, had 29 inmates as of Monday (May 11).

In its petition, Legal Aid said that seven of the eight inmates have underlying conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma and diabetes, that put them at a higher risk of death from COVID-19.

The county, in a response filed by Larry Glasser, an assistant district attorney, said Legal Aid was asking for the release of “alleged and admitted rapists, repeat felony offenders, one who has previously been convicted of homicide, and individuals accused and convicted of violating probation, bail-jumping and violating court-issued orders of protection,” while the jail was doing enough to keep them safe from COVID-19.

Legal Aid was asking that three inmates awaiting sentencing, one awaiting transfer to a state prison (which are not accepting county prisoners during the pandemic) and another who has pleaded guilty to felony incest and rape be temporarily released to stay with family or, in one case, with the mother of a child, until the court system resumes normal operations.

Two of the other inmates have release dates in June and July, and another is being held on bail for a misdemeanor charge.

About 90 percent of the more than 23,000 New York residents who had died from COVID-19 as of Thursday (May 21) had one or more underlying conditions, with hypertension and diabetes the top two medical problems and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) the seventh-most-prevalent, according to the state Department of Health.

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