By Bob Katzen
The Judiciary Committee did not hold a hearing and only accepted written testimony on legislation that would require prisons to release prisoners who pose no immediate physical threat. Included in that category are persons charged with or serving time for simple possession of drugs; detained because they cannot afford bail under $10,000, over the age of 50, medically vulnerable, guilty of technical parole or probation violations, qualify for medical parole and are within six months of their release date or their parole eligibility date.
“Our state government is responsible for ensuring public health during this state of emergency,” wrote the bill’s sponsor Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa (D-Northampton). “That duty extends to protecting prisoners, correctional officers and other employees at prisons and jails as well as the community-at-large. Preventing the spread of COVID-19 through common-sense ‘decarceration’ measures ensures public health, humane treatment of prisoners and safer working conditions. While the executive branch could have taken bold, swift action, it has not. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the Legislature to act quickly.”