'Incarcerated lives matter': Advocates, family members call for safer conditions for prisoners during pandemic

Family members of prisoners and advocates say nothing is being done by New York state to prevent the spread of coronavirus to those that are incarcerated.

Donna Robinson says she is worried for her daughter, who is serving a 15 year to life sentence.

"It's a shame the way they are treating our citizens," Robinson says. "Incarcerated lives matter, they are human beings."

Robinson and several other family members spoke with advocates at a hearing held Tuesday on the impacts of the pandemic in prisons and jails.

Advocates on the call say 81% of people who died in New York prisons during the pandemic were people of color.

"They have been sentenced to a certain amount of time and should be released after that time and not forced to die in jails and prisons because of a lack of a plan," says New York statewide organizer at the Center for Community Alternatives Marvin Mayfield.

Advocates say the state should follow similar guidelines that the Board of Corrections in New York City followed to decrease jail populations.

The executive director of the New York City Board of Corrections Margaret Egan says that the jail population across the five boroughs has decreased by 31% from March to April. People incarcerated over the age of 50 decreased from 906 to 547 and people serving short sentences decreased from 551 to 92 in August.

"Sustaining this low jail population will be critical to managing a potential second wave," Egan says.

Advocates say that reform needs to come from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.