WITH COVID-19 INFECTIONS RISING, NEW YORKERS UNITED FOR JUSTICE DEMAND DATA TRANSPARENCY ON COVID-19 VACCINATIONS IN PRISONS
In Letter to DOH and DOCCS, Criminal Justice Coalition Calls for Data Transparency and Improved Public Reporting on Vaccine Rollout in Prisons
ALBANY, NY—New Yorkers United for Justice (NYUJ)—a bipartisan coalition of 14 national and local criminal justice organizations—today released a letter addressed to New York State Department of Health (DOH) Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker and Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) Acting Commissioner Anthony Annucci that calls for data transparency in DOCCS’s public reporting on COVID-19 infections and the vaccination rollout in prisons. Despite the fact that New York State issues public vaccination data for long-term care facilities and hospital systems, DOCCS has failed to publicly report such information for incarcerated New Yorkers in correctional facilities.
“It is imperative that DOCCS and DOH provide the public with a clear and detailed picture of COVID-19 tracking and management in prisons, including vaccination data and how they are planning to fight future outbreaks. Prisons are ideal breeding grounds for COVID-19 outbreaks, and with potentially large numbers of unvaccinated people in prisons, we cannot risk creating another surge,” said Alexander Horwitz, Executive Director of NYUJ. “Without transparency and accountability, DOCCS’ current approach poses a clear public health risk to all New Yorkers.”
NYUJ’s letter provides critical steps designed to align DOCCS’s reporting with the rest of the state’s public reporting on COVID-19, including a full and accurate breakdown of vaccination data by race, ethnicity, age, and gender. The letter also calls on the agency to:
Rollout a vaccine education initiative to inform individuals in New York’s correctional facilities about vaccine safety and efficacy and provide regular status updates;
Release a full accounting of how DOCCS facilities have managed COVID-19 from a medical standpoint; and
Provide the public with a detailed articulation of current and future vaccination plans and tracking.
Despite repeated requests over the course of the pandemic, DOCCS has continued to ignore calls for greater transparency, guarding crucial information that is necessary to end the pandemic in New York State and to safeguard the health of all New Yorkers. The need for increased transparency from DOCCS on COVID-19 data, such as infections and vaccination rates, grows more urgent as a DOCCS whistleblower highlighted medical care failings in state prisons and as new variants continue to form among unvaccinated populations–which are currently estimated to be at 31% and 45% among prison staff and inmates, respectively.
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.