New York City routinely releases people from jail without winter coats, even in freezing weather, the New York Daily News reports. “This is ridiculous. I’m human, you know?” said William Hodge, 32, as he shivered in a thin long-sleeved shirt outside Bronx Supreme Court. Hodge said he had been wearing a jacket, winter hat and scarf when he was arrested on Dec. 15 for an alleged assault. Because the city does not allow inmates to wear their own clothes to most court appearances, Hodge was wearing a tan Department of Correction shirt when a judge ordered him released.
Public defenders are scrambling to find coats for dozens of inmates who are released daily from jail at courthouses citywide. Releases can happen if defendants make bail, cop a plea, or see their cases dismissed. “It is inhumane and dangerous to release people into the cold in New York City without appropriate clothing, especially when they have far to travel from the courthouse,” said Sarah Kerr of the Legal Aid Society’s Prisoners’ Rights Project. New legislation awaiting a signature from Mayor Bill de Blasio guarantees an inmate’s right to be provided a “weather-appropriate” outfit. The Department of Correction started dressing defendants in tan uniforms years ago in an effort to combat gang violence. A department spokeswoman said, “We are working diligently to ensure that all inmates leaving DOC custody are appropriately attired for the cold temperatures.”