Photo: Bebeto Matthews/AP, File
Junior Wilson has been on Rikers Island since August for a parole violation. He allegedly had a stolen credit card.
The 57-year-old has a pacemaker and asthma.
Advocates released a recording of him from the jail complex on Tuesday. In it, he says, "Right now on Rikers Island, there is a pandemic where detainees are testing positive, and we have nothing to protect ourselves."
Officials say as of Tuesday, 52 detainees at city jails have tested positive for the coronavirus, along with 30 staff members at the Department of Correction. Wilson fears he could soon be one of them.
“Everyone is scared for our lives," Wilson said in the recording. "A lot of us are in here on nonviolent crimes, misdemeanors, parole violations, and we are begging for help in having us released to our families before we contract their disease and pass away behind bars."
Mayor Bill de Blasio has said the city would release inmates from city jails if they are a member of a vulnerable population more at risk of getting severe symptoms from the coronavirus or if they are inmates at low risk of re-offending.
"No one over 70, no one with the preexisting conditions should be in our jails right now," the mayor said Tuesday night. "We have to work with some very intense complicated legal issues case by case."
The city has already released 75 people from city jails to reduce the spread of the virus.
The mayor said he would release 300 more on Tuesday. Those people are serving less than a year sentence at city jails.
For other populations, like parole violators, it’s not so simple. The city is examining their release, but they must work with the state to make that happen.
For days, advocates have called for the widespread release of hundreds of inmates.
The Legal Aid Society filed a second lawsuit on Tuesday to try to force the city to release 32 of their clients.
That suit says, "continuing to hold them on bail or parole holds constitutes deliberate indifference to the risk of serious medical harm in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment."
Inside Rikers, many might agree.