Albany, NY – Academy award-winner Joaquin Phoenix has instructed New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to release convicts in the state’s prisons due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Phoenix’s videoed call-to-action was posted to Twitter by the Release Aging People in Prison Campaign on Tuesday.
“The spread of coronavirus in prison threatens the health and safety of all of us,” he declared in the footage. “Leaders must do everything possible to prevent incarcerated people and those who work in prisons from becoming ill and spreading the virus.”
The 45-year-old actor argued that “there’s no such thing as social distancing” for inmates, and claimed that “ensuring good hygiene is not an option.”
The only logical solution, according to Phoenix, is to empty the prisons by releasing all inmates into the community.
“I’m calling on Governor Andy Cuomo to take action in New York by granting clemency to New Yorkers in prison,” he said in the video. “The lives of so many people depend on his action. No one deserves to die in prison from COVID-19.”
Phoenix’s video shared some of the exact same language singer John Legend used in his own Twitter video on Tuesday.
After lamenting the lack of social distancing and good hygiene in prisons, Legend told Cuomo that it is “time for action.”
“You can make communities across New York safer and healthier by reducing the prison population,” he insisted.
Legend called on the governor to grant “immediate clemency” to inmates who are “close” to completing their sentences, as well as convicted felons who are “incarcerated for parole violations.”
He said he would “especially” like to see Cuomo release inmates who are “vulnerable because of their age or underlying health conditions.”
“Governor Cuomo,” Legend said with a smile, “free them now!”
Cuomo already kicked 1,100 prison inmates loose over coronavirus concerns in late March, the New York Post reported.
“We’re releasing people who are in jails because they violated parole for non-serious reasons,” the governor said at the time. “And wherever we can get people out of jails, out of prisons, now, we are.”
Such “non-serious” parole violations included testing positive for drugs, failing to show up for appointments with the parole officer, or failing to notify the parole officer that they weren’t really residing at their last known address, the New York Post reported.
“Following an individualized review, the Department began canceling any warrant where the individual has identified adequate housing is available and the release of the individual does not present an undue risk to public safety,” the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision told the New York Post at the time.