If it’s signed by Cuomo, the bill would allow formerly incarcerated people convicted of felonies to register to vote and vote in elections at local, state, and federal levels.
In 2018, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order that restored voting rights to people with felony convictions, but the new bill would make that permanent, according to ABC News.
It would also change the length of time time in which formerly convicted people have to wait before registering to vote or voting – instead of waiting until the final date of their sentence, they would be able to register once they are on parole, according to the Legislative Gazette.
All federal prisons in the country will be under lockdown ahead of Wednesday’s presidential inauguration, according to US authorities
In a press release the US Bureau of Prisons said: “In light of current events occurring around the country, and out of an abundance of caution, the decision has been made to secure all institutions. This measure is being taken to maintain the security and orderly running of our institutions, as well as to ensure the continued safety of staff, inmates, and the public.”
The bureau added that the decision is not in response to anything happening inside of their facilities but is merely a precaution.
Cities and states are also bracing for more civil unrest ahead of Biden’s inauguration.
On January 6, supporters of President Donald Trump breached the US Capitol and clashed with law enforcement, halting a joint session of Congress as lawmakers were set to formalize President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election. The riot lead to the deaths of five people.
As for the prisons, the Bureau of Prisons said that its hopes the measure is only for “a short period and that operations will be restored to their prior status as soon as practical.” The bureau added that inmates would still be able to communicate with their families, subject to unspecified limitations.
In a report published on Monday, the commission, whose goal is to develop strategies to address the way COVID-19 has impacted the criminal justice system and includes panelists like former US Attorneys General Loretta Lynch and Albert Gonzales said prisoners correctional staff be vaccinated next, after healthcare workers.
The commission also called for more prisoners to be released during the pandemic as cases in prisons soar. They found the high density of people in jails and prisons and lack of preparedness to handle the pandemic led to a failure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in those areas.
States have been working to create vaccine rollout plans and figure out which demographics should be prioritized after one COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer-BioNTech was recently granted emergency authorization by the US Food and Drug Administration.
The Los Angeles Times reported in California around 26,000 inmates or one-in-four prisoners have already been infected with COVID-19. Also, 12.7% of prison inmates across the country have confirmed COVID-19 cases.
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The New York Times reported earlier this month, that while cases were spreading in prisons, federal authorities working to determine who is most in need of a vaccine did not rank prison inmates high on the priority, but a Centers for Disease Control and Preventions advisory committee did place priority for correctional officers.
The American Medical Association has also called for inmates and those who work in prisons or correctional facilities to be prioritized in the vaccine rollout since jails and prisons cannot adequately implement measures to prevent the spread of the virus.
“We aren’t saying that prisoners should be treated any better than anybody else, but they shouldn’t be treated any worse than anybody else who is forced to live in a congregate setting,” Dr. Eric Toner, co-author of a report on vaccine allocation published by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security told The Times.
The newspaper said that while there may be a hesitancy to prioritize those who are incarcerated, there’s an obligation to protect the health of those in prison as well as a public health responsibility given that an outbreak that starts in a prison can spread to the general community.
“Prisons are incubators of infectious disease,” Toner told the Times.