SHAUN KING: The Leading Criminal Justice Reform Advocates in the Country Catch Governor Cuomo in a Major Lie About His Powers to Reduce the State’s Prison Population

Shaun King
Apr 6, 2020 - 10:19

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Before Andrew Cuomo ever became the three-term governor of New York, he was the attorney general of the state. Long before that, he was an assistant district attorney in the state. He has been an attorney in private practice. He was the campaign manager and a direct aide to his father, Mario Cuomo, for his three terms as governor of New York. 

I said all of that to say he damn well knows his way around the law and very clearly understands all of the powers and privileges the governor of New York has when it comes to all things related to the justice and legal system in the state. In fact, I don’t know that any single person in New York would or could know more about the powers of the governor when it comes to the justice system in the state. 

That’s why it’s curious, scandalous even, that Cuomo just said something that he has to know is a lie. He said he simply has no way to reduce the state’s enormous prison population during the coronavirus pandemic. OF COURSE HE DOES. 

In fact, no single person in the state has more power to reduce the prison population than Cuomo. He knows this. It’s the ABC’s of gubernatorial power. This man has been governor, been running for governor, or serving as governor for over half of his life. 

That’s why the leading criminal justice reform advocates in the country were forced to call Cuomo out for this ridiculous lie he told. 

Josie Duffy Rice, an attorney, president of The Appeal and one of the most respected justice reform advocates in the nation, said:

Joo-Hyun Kang, one of the most trusted justice reform advocates in New York City, said the same thing:

Rebecca Kavanaugh, also an attorney and prominent justice reform advocate, said:

Kumar Rao, a beloved attorney and justice reform advocate, doubled down on the lie:

Those are just four examples. If you click here, you’ll see countless more. The entire justice reform community was outraged by his bullshit answer in the middle of a global pandemic. The Prison Policy Initiative released an annotated policy paper on exactly what Cuomo could do, step by step, but he knows this. He could’ve written that paper himself. 

He just doesn’t want to do it. In fact, conservative governors all over the country have issued more pardons and commutations than Governor Cuomo. He comes from an old school 90s era, tough on crime generation of Democrats that feel like showing any mercy makes them look weak. Most of his predecessors, including his own father, issued exponentially more pardons and commutations. One leading reform advocate literally dubbed him “Cuomo the merciless.” That was in 2018

It was bad then, but to be merciless during a global pandemic is gross, depraved, cruel, and even evil. It’s damn sure not popular to say as much because as his approval ratings soar, it makes him the Teflon Don of political figures right now, and he knows it. 

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COVID-19, which originated in Wuhan, China, has spread to 183 countries. More than 1.2 million people around the world have become infected and more than 70,000 people have died. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a worldwide pandemic. President Donald Trump declared the COVID-19 outbreak a national emergency on March 13. Less than two weeks later, on March 26, the United States surpassed China in the number of COVID-19 cases. 

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