Violent Inmate Imprisoned for Strangulation but Released Due to Coronavirus Outbreak Tries to Rob Bank

A felon who was released from jail because of an outbreak of coronavirus has been rearrested after attempting to rob a bank a week later.

James Little, 40, was released from Rikers Island in New York on 28 March after being originally incarcerated for strangulation earlier in the month.

He reportedly tried to rob an Apple Bank on Irving Place in Gramarcy Park on April 7, the New York Post reported.

He wore a face mask and gloves in the attempted heist and passed a note to a teller that read "give me money," police said. He did not get any money.

Little was arrested the next day and police have since linked him to two previous bank robberies in January and December.

Little served more than 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to a murder committed in Coney Island when he was 15 years old, according to police. He was sentenced to seven years to life for the 1995 murder and released on parole in 2016.

Rikers Island
A woman walks by a sign at the entrance to Rikers Island in New York City Spencer Platt/Getty Images

In March, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed a number of inmates at the New York prison complex at Rikers Island had shown symptoms of coronavirus after being in contact with an inmate who tested positive.

"The individual is in his early thirties and thankfully at this moment healthwise is doing okay, is in isolation, has been moved to our communicable disease unit on Rikers Island, part of the health care apparatus on Rikers Island," de Blasio said.

"This inmate was in a housing unit with other inmates. All have been checked for symptoms. Eight have been identified with symptoms and have been moved also to isolation within the communicable disease unit."

U.S. jails are beginning to let out low-risk inmates as cases of coronavirus infections are being reported in prisons. Overcrowded facilities with relatively poor sanitary conditions offer perfect environments for coronavirus to spread. As more people contract the virus, prison staff levels are likely to be stretched further and conditions could deteriorate.

As a result, the U.S. correctional system is facing an "unprecedented" threat from COVID-19, according to organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union and The Sentencing Project.

Both groups have called on officials to release elderly and at-risk prisoners as well as those who do not pose a risk to the general public.

"As the United States continues to combat the global health pandemic rapidly spreading throughout the country, it is critical that we not forget the millions of people working and detained in jails, prisons and detention centers," a coalition of groups wrote in a letter to President Trump in March.

Newsweek has contacted the New York Department of Corrections for a comment on the release of prisoners during the COVID-19 crisis.

The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S.

Spread of COVID-19 in the U.S.
The spread of the COVID-19 virus in the U.S. Statista

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advice on Using Face Coverings to Slow Spread of COVID-19

  • CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
  • A simple cloth face covering can help slow the spread of the virus by those infected and by those who do not exhibit symptoms.
  • Cloth face coverings can be fashioned from household items. Guides are offered by the CDC. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html)
  • Cloth face coverings should be washed regularly. A washing machine will suffice.
  • Practice safe removal of face coverings by not touching eyes, nose, and mouth, and wash hands immediately after removing the covering.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

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Mask and glove usage

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  • Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.