The rapper, real name Daniel Hernandez, was handed 24 months in prison in December last year for racketeering and other offenses, following heated and highly controversial testimony against fellow members of the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods gang.
His lawyer, Lance Lazzaro, wrote a letter to the judge citing Tekashi’s pre-existing asthma, which would make the transmission of the virus more dangerous (according to TMZ, the rapper has been recently suffering from shortness of breath, with prison officials refusing to let him see a doctor). Late last year, he was also diagnosed with sinusitis and bronchitis.
It’s a dilemma circulating US prisons and jails – while it’s easy for people on the outside to practice social distancing and self-isolate, inmates don’t have that same luxury.
Robert Greifinger, a physician with 25 years of experience in prison healthcare, told NPR:
There are crowding issues, ventilation issues, security issues where people have to be checked and monitored fairly frequently. So it’s really hard to do.
Since jail and prison staff and prisoners tend to be younger, one thinks initially that it’s not going to be a big problem. But remember that staff work shifts, they come in and out of the facility, and they may be bringing that infection home to people who have compromised immune systems.
Despite a two-year sentence – drastically reduced from 47 years due to his cooperation with authorities – Tekashi was already cruising towards early release in August this year. Dawn Florio, part of his legal team, told Complex: ‘The reason why he’s getting released early is that he’s the perfect model prisoner.’
While there’s no confirmation yet of whether the judge’s request has been approved – however, with recent events, it wouldn’t be entirely surprising if he was released.
Over in Utah, at least 90 inmates have been released from Salt Lake County jail as confirmed COVID-19 cases ramp up in the state. Those released will be nonviolent offenders, mostly in jail for technical violations or failure to attend court dates.
Steve Burton, executive director at the jail, told The Salt Lake Tribune: ‘Utah’s jails and prisons are about to face a public health catastrophe unless immediate steps are taken to reduce the number of people who are currently incarcerated.’
While Tekashi may be granted early release, the fallout of ‘snitching’ and a host of other legal issues suggest a hard road ahead for the rapper.