The city routinely releases people from jail without winter coats — even in freezing weather, the Daily News has learned.
“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 on Tuesday night.
Hodge said he had been wearing a jacket, winter hat and scarf when he was arrested on Dec. 15 for an alleged assault.
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But 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.
Prosecutors had said they were not going forward with his felony case.
A Daily News reporter observed several people released into the 30-degree night this past Tuesday, wearing just tan jail-issued shirts.
Some had family waiting for them with jackets. Others, like Hodge, were left to fend for themselves in the cold.
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Public defenders say they 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, staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society’s Prisoners’ Rights Project.
New legislation passed by the City Council and awaiting signature from Mayor 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. Their current policy is to only allow people to wear their own clothes in front of a jury at trial or at a grand jury proceeding.
A Department of Correction spokeswoman said, “We are working diligently to ensure that all inmates leaving DOC custody are appropriately attired for the cold temperatures.”
She did not explain why coats had not been ordered before the onset of winter.
Outside the Bronx Hall of Justice on E. 161st. St. on Tuesday, Hodge, unable to go back to Rikers Island to pick up his winter gear, instead walked back inside the courthouse where he had seen a judge hours earlier.
A Legal Aid attorney, Monica Dula, spotted him wandering around a hallway and offered to get him a coat.
“At least you have sleeves,” Dula said, rolling her eyes.
The pair walked across the street to Legal Aid’s neighborhood office, where attorneys keep a stash of coats — many of which were donated by the lawyers themselves.
Hodge found a jacket big enough to fit his 6-foot-4, 250-pound frame and went on his way.
Back outside the courthouse, Steven Green, 40, was released in short-sleeved jail clothes after spending eight days in jail on a criminal mischief charge.
He was freezing, but lucky. His wife was waiting for him with a jacket.Send a Letter to the Editor