Woman claims incarcerated brother died of COVID-19 weeks before release from prison
A woman is speaking out against the Department of Corrections after she claims her brother, an inmate at Queensboro Correctional Facility, died from coronavirus weeks before his release.
Cynthia Carter Young says she recounts her last phone call with her brother, Leonard Eugene Carter, in March.
"He said let me get off the phone… I said well ‘I love you’ and he said ‘I love you more.’ The last thing he said to me was ‘I love you more,’” said Young.
Young says Carter was months away from leaving the facility and that he was granted parole as of May 26--but despite serving 25 years, he never made it out.
"My brother was not free until he left in a body bag,” said Young.
Carter died of coronavirus complications on April 14. His sister is holding the state DOC responsible, saying they didn't do enough to protect her brother from the disease.
Carter had two key factors to be considered high risk. He was 60 and had a history of emphysema.
"The Department of Corrections knew this. They know he was being tested for it. Sometimes he had to leave the facility and get treated at the hospital,” said Young.
On March 27, in an attempt to slow down the spread of the coronavirus in New York state prisons, the DOC and community supervision started to release low-level offenders from their facilities.
The DOC tells News 12 the criteria they are using to release inmates are:
- Inmates who are within 90 days of release
- Anyone who does not pose an undue risk to public safety
- Not serving time for an A-1 or an A-2 on-drug offense, any Class-B through E felonies, or sex offenders
Carter met all of the early release requirements but was held because he was serving time on a second-degree murder charge, which is considered an A-1 offense.
Phil Desgranges is a senior staff attorney at New York Civil Liberties Union-- who has been pushing for more inmates waiting to be released on parole.
He says if an inmate has served their time and is believed no longer to be a risk to the public, they shouldn't be held.
He says the DOC’s decision to no longer use age as a criterion for early release, although their original criteria included individuals 55 years of age and over, is a dangerous one.
"The state has used an extremely limited criteria that's prevented people like Mr. Carter from being released earlier and avoiding contracting COVID-19,” said Desgranges.
Young says she’s hopeful the DOC will expand their criteria and that her brother’s case has served a lesson.
"I don't want to see some other family go through what we went through. I can't get my brother back but why should we go through this. We shouldn't accept this,” said Young.