In Wake of Tragic Rikers Island Death, Van Jones and Khalil A. Cumberbatch Call for Protecting Vulnerable Prison Population From COVID-19 Outbreak
April 06, 2020

April 6, 2020

For More Information Contact: Reynolds Graves


REFORM Alliance and New Yorkers United for Justice demand immediate action

Individual at Rikers Island was reportedly held on technical parole violation – not for a violent infraction

On Sunday, an individual reportedly held on a technical parole violation at Rikers Island died of the coronavirus, making him the first person detained in New York City to succumb to the disease. In response to this tragedy, and the looming humanitarian crisis in New York prisons, REFORM Alliance CEO, Van Jones, and New Yorkers United for Justice Chief Strategist, Khalil A. Cumberbatch, issued the following statements:

Van Jones, CEO, REFORM Alliance: “It’s long past time we stop talking away peoples’ liberty for minor technical violations – but now, peoples’ lives are on the line. In the age of a pandemic, any arrest or reincarceration could be a death sentence. America must stop putting people behind bars for minor technical probation and parole violations, starting immediately.”

Khalil A. Cumberbatch, Chief Strategist, New Yorkers United for Justice: “There is a humanitarian crisis inside prisons and jails, where people cannot social distance, and where there is inadequate access to soap, sanitizer, gloves, and masks. When someone contracts COVID-19, the disease spreads like wildfire – well beyond the walls of the facility and into our communities. Republican and Democratic governors alike, including Gov. Andy Beshear (D-KY), Gov. Mike DeWine (R-OH), and Gov. JB Pritzker(D-IL), are implementing plans to reduce prison populations. Where is New York’s plan? In alignment with public safety,  Governor Cuomo can, and must, release elderly people, those with underlying health conditions, women who are pregnant, people close to finishing their sentences, and others. Now is the time to act.

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About New Yorker United for Justice (NYUJ):
New Yorkers United for Justice is a statewide coalition comprised of local and national non-profit organizations committed to supporting a movement that will bring much-needed criminal justice reform to New York State and ensure that policies promote safety and fairness. NYUJ aims for legislative urgency to fix a broken criminal justice system that punishes the poor and communities of color, tears families apart, and makes New Yorkers less safe. NYUJ believes that a system that ensures equal access to justice for anyone accused in New York State, regardless of age, race, ethnicity or social economic status, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin or religion, must be the standard.

The REFORM Alliance is committed to advancing criminal justice reform and eradicating laws and policies that perpetuate injustice in the United States. To achieve that objective, REFORM will pass probation bills at the state level, use media to amplify the need for comprehensive reform and build an inclusive, bipartisan alliance of leaders who share a vision for ambitiously and efficiently transforming the criminal justice system.

REFORM’s founding partners include award-winning recording artist Meek Mill; Philadelphia 76ers partner and Fanatics Executive Chairman Michael Rubin; entrepreneur and business mogul Shawn “JAY-Z” Carter; Kraft Group CEO and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft; Brooklyn Nets co-owner and philanthropic investor Clara Wu Tsai; Third Point LLC CEO and founder Daniel S. Loeb; Galaxy Digital CEO and founder Michael E. Novogratz; Vista Equity Partners founder, chairman, and CEO Robert F. Smith; Arnold Ventures co-founder Laura Arnold. CNN host, author, and activist Van Jones is the CEO.