For Immediate Release
August 11, 2020
ICYMI — COVID Cases Still on the Rise in New York Prisons, Despite Five Months of Aggressive Calls to Confront the Crisis
New Yorkers United for Justice Reacts to Breaking Reporting
(NEW YORK) Today, the New York Daily News reported startling COVID-19 data from four prisons in New York state detailing the ongoing spread of the virus in New York State Department of Correction and Community Supervision facilities. Since the onset of the pandemic, New Yorkers United for Justice and allies across the criminal justice and health care sectors have aggressively called for expanding virus testing in state prisons and jails – and to safely reduce the population of incarcerated individuals to promote life-saving social distancing practices. Despite five months of ringing the alarm, New York State has made only incremental changes to its justice system testing and data reporting, even as it moved forward with reopening regions. By adopting NYUJ’s COVID principles in policing, sentencing, incarceration, and supervision, New York can minimize the risk of new outbreaks in all of the state’s communities. Khalil A. Cumberbatch, Senior Advisor at New Yorkers United for Justice, released the following statement reacting to the New York Daily News report on COVID outbreaks in New York state prisons:
“Today’s report from the Daily News is just the latest that demonstrates how far behind the state is – and the urgent need to adopt the COVID-19 principles New Yorkers United for Justice released in July. These principles provide the state with a framework to protect all New Yorkers from the virus by safeguarding those most vulnerable to it. We call on the state to administer COVID-19 tests to all incarcerated individuals as many other states, including very conservative states, have. It’s common sense that we must know the status of the virus in incarceration settings — and it’s a reasonable, practical step since New York has the capacity to conduct millions of tests and there are fewer than 40,000 incarcerated New Yorkers. In preparation for what experts are referring to as an imminent second wave, testing everyone in the system would provide the state with a baseline to tackle the virus in the fall, which is the footing we will need to protect all incarcerated New Yorkers, their families, the people who work in correctional facilities, and the communities that surround them.”
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New York Daily News: Four New York prisons still see high numbers of coronavirus
New York Daily News
By Chelsia Rose Marcius
August 10, 2020
Four New York prisons remain a COVID-19 hotbed — even as the number of positive cases statewide continues to drop.
Shawangunk Correctional Facility, Wallkill Correctional Facility, Fishkill Correctional Facility and Green Haven Correctional Facility have a coronavirus infection rate of 4.6% — over twice the statewide infection rate of 1.9%, state Correction Department data shows.
That’s also about six times higher than Sunday’s statewide infection rate of .78%, the lowest single-day percentage of positive tests since March 16.
“As we have said since the beginning of this crisis, prisons and jails are breeding grounds for COVID-19, and DOCCS does not have a plan to protect the most vulnerable in its custody,” The Legal Aid Society said in a statement.
“This is also especially alarming because COVID-19 cases are at record lows throughout the state,” the statement continued. “We demand that Governor Cuomo and DOCCS release our most vulnerable clients immediately who are at imminent danger of contracting this virus.”
The state’s Department of Correction and Community Supervision in July tested all asymptomatic incarcerated individuals 55 and older for COVID-19.
Of those who tested positive statewide, 75% came from the four Hudson Valley facilities.
The high concentration of positive tests prompted targeted testing. The Correction Department offered 3,202 tests July 24 to incarcerated asymptomatic individuals at Shawangunk, Wallkill, Fishkill and Green Haven.
Of those tests, 148 — 4.6% — came back positive, while 3,006 — 93.9% — were negative. Forty-six people — 1.4% — refused testing. Those individuals were placed in medical isolation for 14 days.
As of Monday, 101 of Shawangunk’s 427 inmates — nearly one-fourth of the population — have tested positive for COVID-19.
A total of 754 inmates in all New York state prisons have tested positive for coronavirus. Of those cases, 608 have recovered. Seventeen incarcerated people have died of the disease.
As of June, the Correction Department released 978 individuals in response to the pandemic.