LATEST DATA SHOWS: NEW YORK STATE STILL DANGEROUSLY LAGS ON COVID-19 TESTS AND ACTION PLAN TO ADDRESS PANDEMIC IN PRISONS; NYUJ URGES NYS TO ADOPT COVID SAFETY PLAN

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 25, 2020
Contact: Jessica Floyd | JFloyd@Skdknick.com |

LATEST DATA SHOWS: NEW YORK STATE STILL DANGEROUSLY LAGS ON COVID-19 TESTS AND ACTION PLAN TO ADDRESS PANDEMIC IN PRISONS; NYUJ URGES NYS TO ADOPT COVID SAFETY PLAN

New York’s prison testing rate (22.72%) is far below other states as CDC study shows importance of mass testing in prisons.

NYUJ to New York State: Test Every Individual In The Prison System Regardless of Symptoms; Reduce the Existing Prison Population; Limit Incoming Detainees

NEW YORK – New Yorkers United for Justice (NYUJ) today once again called on New York State to develop, release, and implement a comprehensive plan to safeguard the state’s criminal justice system during the pandemic. Despite a new Center for Disease Control (CDC) report highlighting the need for mass testing in correctional facilities , data collected by NYUJ from the past week shows New York, which until recently only tested incarcerated individuals with COVID-19 symptoms, continues to test its incarcerated population at limited rates (22.72%). New York’s prison system’s testing rate is dismal when stacked up to other states like California, Texas, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri and its regional partner, New Jersey. In light of the CDC’s finding that mass testing in correctional facilities resulted in a median 12.1 fold increase in positive test results, New York’s data details a dangerously underwhelming approach to prison safety during this global pandemic. New Yorkers United for Justice has called for such a policy change since March.

COVID-19 cannot be contained within state prisons; the spread of the virus behind bars threatens all communities. The lack of routine and consistent testing in New York state prisons remains a large blind spot that not only puts those who are incarcerated and work in corrections in danger – it threatens the success of New York’s reopening.

“To this day, DOCCS has failed to present a transparent and full-scale plan to test all New Yorkers impacted by it, from incarcerated individuals to staff to transfers, and align its COVID-19 response with public health standards. A CDC study found that asymptomatic and presymptomatic cases represented 40-45% of infected persons in correctional settings. Until recently, DOCCS focused its limited testing efforts only on incarcerated New Yorkers who exhibited COVD-19 symptoms – despite the unique challenges prisons present in properly containing and preventing outbreaks,” said Khalil A. Cumberbatch, Senior Advisor at New Yorkers United for Justice. “Other states’ policies are tuned into the well reported fact that prisons are ground zero for COVID-19 and ripe for the virus to spread into the broader communities surrounding facilities. For example, our neighbor New Jersey has long since tested its entire prison population and is now in the process of retesting each individual who originally tested negative. In New York, incarcerated New Yorkers and the public need DOCCS to present a plan. Not only is DOCCS directly responsible for protecting tens of thousands of lives from contracting COVID-19, but it is also on the hook if the virus spreads from its facilities to communities across the state.”

New York developed precautions for safely returning to restaurants, shops, and businesses throughout the state – we must be sure that the same precautions are taken in our entire criminal justice system to mitigate the spread of this deadly virus. Prisons are just one facet of the criminal justice system that must be addressed. Crowded courtrooms, for example, can contribute to virus transmission and can present enormous risks for all court personnel, lawyers, witnesses, accused persons, and the general public. The reopening of courts should be guided by independent medical advice. NYUJ has developed recommended principles for the state’s justice system to minimize the risk of renewed outbreaks by relying on post COVID practices in policing, sentencing, incarceration, and supervision.

COVID Cases Among Incarcerated Individuals and Correctional Staff
Updated on August 24, 2020

Prison System (Accessed Aug. 24, 2020) Incarcerated Positive Staff Positive Incarcerated Individual to Staff COVID ratio # of Tests for incarcerated population
Alabama 330 351 0.94 1,461
California 10,130 2,563 3.95 82,895
Delaware* 529 168 3.15 N/A
Federal BOP 11,873 1,498 7.93 46,353
Florida 15,300 2,389 6.40 80,680
Georgia 1,328 691 1.92 N/A
Illinois 729 437 1.67 N/A
Indiana 975 399 2.44 3,493
Iowa 495 94 5.27 8,436
Kansas 1,072 173 6.20 N/A
Louisiana 1,196 382 3.13 4,707
Michigan 4,620 443 10.43 62,712
Missouri 805 253 3.18 26,463
Nevada 23 94 0.24 N/A
New Jersey 2,976 971 3.06 Phase 2 testing, testing all individuals who tested negative in Phase 1.
New York 755 1318 0.57 8,535
Ohio 5,741 1,048 5.48 24,062
Oregon 580 159 3.65 3,238
Pennsylvania** 290 231 1.26 11,098
South Carolina 1,371 395 3.47 N/A
Texas 18,785 4,091 4.59 184,386
Vermont*** 55 22 2.50 1,635
Wisconsin 534 170 3.14 28,017

* No new data since August 12, 2020
** Pennsylvania has created a new dashboard and new presentation of data. Data appears to have changed from old format to new.
*** Vermont has clarified unique positive cases and total positive tests, new number reflects unique positive cases.

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About New Yorkers United for Justice (NYUJ):
New Yorkers United for Justice is a statewide coalition comprised 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 that ensures equal access to justice for anyone accused in New York State, regardless of age, race, ethnicity or social economic status, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin or religion, must be the standard.