Mayor Bill de Blasio told the press on Monday that New York City is seeing “some recidivism” from a small percentage of the inmates released due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Roughly 50 of the 1,400 inmates released from Rikers Island have been rearrested in the intervening weeks, according to reports by the New York Post. The former prisoners were released in concern for the spread of the coronavirus — classified “COVID-19” by the World Health Organization — within the infamously overcrowded institutions.
“I think it’s unconscionable just on a human level that folks were shown mercy and this is what some of them have done,” de Blasio told reporters during Monday’s morning briefing, but he assured the public that they were “buckling down” on the problem.
“We do see some recidivism. I have not seen a huge amount, but any amount is obviously troubling,” he said. “We’re going to just keep buckling down on it, making sure there’s close monitoring and supervision to the maximum step possible. And the NYPD is going to keep doing what they’re doing.”
Of course, the situation is more complicated than simply freeing people who have been locked away for years — or decades — before being released onto the streets of New York. Even outside of a global pandemic, prisoners already face monumental challenges in basic survival, let alone reintegration with society at large.
Furthermore, precisely what each of the inmates did to get arrested has not been fully clarified. At least one, 37-year-old Katarra Jackson, was arrested in Long Island in peak irony: after being released from prison due to the dangers of close quarters confinement, authorities took her back into custody for not properly social distancing.
Thus far, city officials said roughly 300 inmates and 500 correctional officers have been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus. Two have died. For the first time since World War II, Rikers houses fewer than 4,000 prisoners. How those numbers fluctuate may very well depend on the state of the world into which these men and women have been freed.