FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 30, 2020
Contact: Jessica Floyd | JFloyd@Skdknick.com |
NYUJ: DOCCS DOESN’T GET IT — DEPARTMENT CONTINUES TO TEST IN STAGES; NYUJ COALITION URGES NYS TO STOP PLAYING GAMES & RELEASE TESTING PLAN IMMEDIATELY
New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision Tested 2,442 Incarcerated Individuals in the Last Week — DOCCS Testing Pales Compared to Statewide Capacity
NYUJ to New York State: Get Ahead of the Curve
NEW YORK – New Yorkers United for Justice (NYUJ) today called on New York State to ramp up COVID-19 testing in the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) — following news that DOCCS administered an additional 2,442 tests since last week. This is a dip from the three thousand plus tests conducted as DOCCS scrambled before the Senate Committee on Crime Victims, Crime and Correction and Senate Committee on Health hearing regarding COVID in prisons and jails on September 22, 2020. Despite horrific admissions during the hearing, DOCCS continues a piecemeal approach to testing and lacks a consistent and evidence-based testing strategy in its state prisons. To this day, the department’s scope of viral impact is a mystery. The agency’s limited understanding of how many incarcerated people and staff contracted, have had, or are at continued risk of contracting COVID-19 is a massive public health liability.
NYUJ calls for DOCCS to present a comprehensive, transparent plan that includes administering COVID-19 tests to all incarcerated individuals on a rolling basis, conducting antibody testing, and reducing the incarcerated populations to promote social distance throughout the department. Any substantial plan from DOCCS must include diagnostic and antibody testing of every incarcerated individual to establish a baseline of viral impact and follow up exams to monitor the threat of coronavirus in state correctional facilities. For months, New York’s data has shown an inconsistent approach to this public health crisis, jeopardizing prison safety during this global pandemic. New Yorkers United for Justice has called for not only a mass testing since March, but a publicly disclosed plan to prevent the spread of coronavirus in correctional facilities and the statewide criminal justice system.
“It remains alarming that more than six months into a pandemic NYSDOCCS, a state department that oversees nearly 40,000 incarcerated lives and tens of thousands of staff, continues to underplay the scope of the virus in its correctional facilities and its impact on staff and the incarcerated population. That same department is also ill prepared for flu season, by its own admission, having only 13,000 flu vaccines and not all of them are on hand,” said Khalil A. Cumberbatch, Senior Advisor at New Yorkers United for Justice. “DOCCS needs to get up to speed with the rest of the state on vaccines for the flu and measures to combat COVID-19. So many incarcerated New Yorkers have been exposed to the virus that at this point in the pandemic and DOCCS must implement a blanket and rolling test plan for the entire population. Additionally, mass tests for antibodies have to run parallel to virus testing in state correctional facilities. Time is of the essence as we enter flu season and increase the likelihood of sickness occurring and spreading.”
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. Just this week, a Queens Criminal Court officer tested positive for COVID-19, which demonstrates the urgent need to safeguard all aspects of the state’s criminal justice system. 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 September 28, 2020
|Prison System (Accessed Sep. 28, 2020)||Incarcerated Positive||Staff Positive||Incarcerated Individual to Staff COVID ratio||# of Tests for incarcerated population|
|New Jersey||2,897||1,020||2.84||Phase 3 testing, testing all individuals who tested negative in Phase 2.|
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 socioeconomic status, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin or religion, must be the standard.