Letter from over 120 Columbia Scholars: Reduce New York's Incarcerated Population

April 22, 2020

On April 21, over 120 Columbia University scholars delivered an open letter to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, urging him to take action to protect communities by immediately reducing the New York State prison, jail, and juvenile center populations. This letter stresses the importance of swift action and highlights the fact that people of color are placed at higher risk of exposure and serious cases of COVID-19. A disproportionately high number of New York’s essential workers are people of color, who as a result of reporting to work, are experiencing high levels of exposure to the virus. Racial bias within New York’s criminal legal system is well documented. With a disproportionately high number of Black and brown people being arrested and confined, the COVID-19 pandemic inside New York’s jails, prisons, and juvenile facilities will thus disproportionately hurt these populations. In other words, massive death inside New York’s jails and prisons will fall along racial lines.

A failure to act, will put New Yorkers, particularly New Yorkers of color, at risk of serious illness and death. In this letter, instructors, researchers, professors, and scholars implored Governor Cuomo to reduce the populations at New York State prisons and juvenile facilities as is humanly possible, for the sake of public health, human rights, justice and equity.

Read the full letter here