NYUJ Statement on COVID-19 Undercount in NY Prisons

Last night, the Associated Press reported that New York State has undercounted COVID-19 deaths by more than 11,000, omitting  New Yorkers who died while incarcerated in state prisons and living in other congregate settings.

In response, Alexander Horwitz, Executive Director of New Yorkers United for Justice (NYUJ)—a bipartisan coalition of 14 national and local organizations—released the following statement:

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, the New Yorkers United for Justice Coalition has called attention to DOCCS’ failure to protect incarcerated New Yorkers and correctional staff from COVID-19from the agency’s questionable reporting on infection rates, to conditions inside New York’s prisons, to a total lack of transparency on vaccine distribution and administration. And now there is reason to believe that even the most important metric of alldeaths due to COVID-19 under DOCCS’s watchmay be unknown.

“As Governor Cuomo has said, ‘an outbreak anywhere is an outbreak everywhere.’ And yet DOCCS has ignored this fundamental truth about the pandemic, failing the trust of all New Yorkers, especially those who are incarcerated, their families and the people who live and work around correctional facilities. It is an overwhelming failure of public health policy for some of the most vulnerable and at-risk people in our state.

“Over the course of the pandemic, our Coalition and other advocates across the state have demanded a comprehensive plan to tackle and prevent COVID-19 outbreaks in prisons, including safe and timely decarceration efforts, implementing mass testing, providing clear transparency in the reporting of outbreaks, providing priority vaccine access to people in prisons, and more. As the Delta variant continues to spread, it is an especially critical time for DOCCS to provide transparent and accurate data on the rate of COVID-19 cases and deaths, and the vaccine rollout among people in prisons.”

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About New Yorkers United for Justice (NYUJ)

New Yorkers United for Justice is a statewide coalition of local and national non-profit organizations committed to supporting a movement that will bring much-needed criminal justice reform to New York State and ensure that policies promote safety and fairness. NYUJ aims for legislative urgency to fix a broken criminal justice system that punishes the poor and communities of color, tears families apart, and makes New Yorkers less safe. NYUJ believes that a system must ensure equal access to justice for anyone accused in New York State, regardless of age; race; ethnicity; socioeconomic status; disability; veteran status; sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression; and national origin or religion.