VALHALLA – As the county continues the effort to reduce the population at the Westchester County Jail amid the COVID-19 pandemic, County District Attorney Anthony Scarpino, Jr. working closely with the Legal Aid Society of Westchester and privately retained criminal defense attorneys to review case files of prisoners who may merit early release.
To date, 79 inmates have been allowed to leave the jail via a process that takes into account both the safety of employees and residents and weighs that against the safety of those of who live and work in Westchester County.
Once Governor Andrew Cuomo issued his first executive order, as part of “New York Pause,” Scarpino initiated the process of evaluating ways by which authorities could safely reduce the population at the Westchester County Jail.
After obtaining a master list of all jail inmates, the DA’s Office reached out to the Legal Aid Society and County Department of Correction Commissioner Joseph Spano to discuss a process to evaluate early release of certain inmates. It was decided to limit the review to any prisoner who was set to be released on or before June 26, with consideration given to any potential health issues, the nature of the crime, and any potential danger to the community.
The first group to have their cases reviewed included those inmates who are sentenced prisoners serving one year or less who are were scheduled to be released on or before June 26, 2020. The process entailed reviewing all charging information, police reports, witness and victim statements, plea dispositions and discussions with District Attorney’s Office Division Chiefs and Assistant District Attorneys assigned to those specific cases. This process resulted in the early release of 35 inmates.
In addition to those serving sentences, the consented to or did not oppose 44 applications from inmates who were serving time for Violations of Probation. This brings the total number released to 79 as of Thursday.
There are currently 261 inmates at the jail who are awaiting trial. We have requested Legal Aid and the defense bar to provide us with any documented medical information to consider as part of their request that the defendant be released on bail or on their own recognizance. This is an ongoing process.
“As we continue to see the pandemic unfold, we are cognizant of our unique position to put the wellbeing of members of our community first, whether they be incarcerated or not,” said Scarpino. “With the release of dozens of prisoners, we believe we have weighed carefully the rights of those in jail versus the overall safety of the people of Westchester.”